Journal of Biological Physics

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 225–235 | Cite as

Direct visualization of single virus restoration after damage in real time

  • Pedro J. de Pablo
  • Mercedes Hernando-Pérez
  • Carolina Carrasco
  • José L. Carrascosa
Original Paper


We use the nano-dissection capabilities of atomic force microscopy to induce structural alterations on individual virus capsids in liquid milieu. We fracture the protein shells either with single nanoindentations or by increasing the tip-sample interaction force in amplitude modulation dynamic mode. The normal behavior is that these cracks persist in time. However, in very rare occasions they self-recuperate to retrieve apparently unaltered virus particles. In this work, we show the topographical evolution of three of these exceptional events occurring in T7 bacteriophage capsids. Our data show that single nanoindentation produces a local recoverable fracture that corresponds to the deepening of a capsomer. In contrast, imaging in dynamic mode induced cracks that separate the virus morphological subunits. In both cases, the breakage patterns follow intratrimeric loci.


Capsid AFM Mechanics Fracture Failure Nanoindentation Crack Breakage 



PJP thanks FIS2014-59562-R, FIS2017-89549-R, FIS2015-71108-REDT from Fundación BBVA and “María de Maeztu” Program for Units of Excellence in R&D (MDM-2014-0377). JLC and CC acknowledge “Severo Ochoa” Centres of Excellence and JLC to BFU2014-54181.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

10867_2018_9492_MOESM1_ESM.avi (14.8 mb)
ESM 1 (AVI 15141 kb)
10867_2018_9492_MOESM2_ESM.avi (2.2 mb)
ESM 2 (AVI 2263 kb)
10867_2018_9492_MOESM3_ESM.avi (1.2 mb)
ESM 3 (AVI 1242 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Física de la Materia Condensada and Instituto de Física de la Materia Condensada IFIMACUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Centro Nacional de Biotecnología CNBCSICMadridSpain

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