Int J Numer Method Biomed Eng 2018 Jul 22;34(7):e2991. Epub 2018 Apr 22.
Laboratorio de la Diversidad Biomolecular, Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados Unidad Monterrey, Vía del Conocimiento 201, Parque PIIT,, C.P. 66600, Apodaca, Nuevo León, México.
Viruses are the most abundant pathogens affecting all forms of life. A major component of a virus is a protein shell, known as the viral capsid, that encapsulates the genomic material. The fundamental functions of the capsid are to protect and transport the viral genome and recognize the host cell. Descriptions of this macromolecular complex have been proposed at different scales of approximation. Here, we introduce a methodology to generate a structured volumetric mesh of icosahedral viral capsids (CapsidMesh) based on the atomic positions of their constituents. Material properties of the capsid proteins can be set on every mesh element individually. Hence, we have control over all levels of protein structure (atoms, amino acids, subunits, oligomers, and capsid). The CapsidMesh models are suitable for numerical simulations and analysis of a physical process using a third-party package. In particular, we used our methodology to generate a CapsidMesh of several capsids previously characterized by atomic force microscopy experiments and then simulated the mechanical nanoindentation through the finite element method. By fitting to the experimental linear elastic response, we estimated the elastic modulus and mechanical stresses produced on the capsids. Our results show that the atomic detail of the CapsidMesh is sufficient to reproduce anisotropic properties of the particle.