Bacteriophage capsids: tough nanoshells with complex elastic properties.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

The shell of bacteriophages protects the viral DNA during host-to-host transfer and serves as a high-pressure container storing energy for DNA injection into a host bacterium. Here, we probe the mechanical properties of nanometer-sized bacteriophage phi 29 shells by applying point forces. We show that empty shells withstand nanonewton forces while being indented up to 30% of their height. The elastic response varies across the surface, reflecting the arrangement of shell proteins. The measured Young's modulus (approximately 1.8 GPa) is comparable with that of hard plastic. We also observe fatigue and breakage of capsids after probing them repetitively. These results illustrate the mechanoprotection that viral shells provide and also suggest design principles for nanotechnology.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Ivanovska, IL; de Pablo, PJ; Ibarra, B; Sgalari, G; MacKintosh, FC; Carrascosa, JL; Schmidt, CF; Wuite, GJL

Published Date

  • May 7, 2004

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 101 / 20

Start / End Page

  • 7600 - 7605

PubMed ID

  • 15133147

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC419652

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1091-6490

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0027-8424

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1073/pnas.0308198101


  • eng