Topological effects on capsomer-polyion co-assembly
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On the basis of a T = 1 icosahedral capsid model, the capsomer-polyion co-assembly process has been investigated by molecular dynamics simulations using capsomers with different net charge and charge distribution as well as linear, branched, and hyper-branched polyions. The assembly process was characterized in terms of the time-dependent cluster size probabilities, averaged cluster size, encapsulation efficiency, and polyion extension. The kinetics of the capsid formation displayed a two-step process. The first one comprised adsorption of capsomers on the polyion, driven by their electrostatic attraction, whereas the second one involved a relocation and/or reorientation of adsorbed capsomers, which rate is reduced upon increasing electrostatic interaction. We found that increased polyion branching facilitated a more rapid encapsulation process towards a higher yield. Moreover, the hyper-branched polyions were entirely encapsulated at all polyion-capsid charge ratios considered. (C) 2014 AIP Publishing LLC.