Alkalinization of Icosahedral Non-enveloped Viral Capsid Interior Through Proton Channeling

  • Maria Marta Branda
  • Diego M. A. GuérinEmail author
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 1215)


Small icosahedral viruses have a compact capsid that apparently lacks holes through which solvents can be exchanged with the external milieu. However, due to the steric hindrance of amino acids, upon folding, capsid proteins form narrow cavities in which water and ions can be trapped. These occluded solvent molecules can form lines of water, called water wires, representing an arrangement with special features for proton conduction. In this chapter, we review the physico-chemical principles that permit proton conduction through protein cavities. We also describe how a combination of these elements found in an insect viral capsid can allow the virus to sense alkaline environments. Through this analysis, we stress the need to combine experimental and theoretical techniques when modeling complex biological systems.


Proton diode Water wire pH sensing Grotthuss Triatoma virus 



We thank Dieter Blaas, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna Biocenter, A-1030, Austria, for critical reading and useful comments of the manuscript. MMB is a member of the CONICET research staff, Argentina, and she thanks a permit from the CONICET and UNS to do sabbatical stage at DMAG’s lab, Instituto Biofisika (CSIC, UPV/EHU). MMB thanks a traveling grant from the CYTED (216RT0506). This work was partially supported by a grant to DMAG from the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (BFU2012-36241), and Gobierno Vasco (Elkartek KK-2017/00008), Spain.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de FísicaUniversidad Nacional del Sur (DF-UNS), and GRUMASICA, IFISUR (UNS/CONICET)Bahía BlancaArgentina
  2. 2.Present address: Instituto de Física Aplicada (INFAP, CONICET-UNSL)Ciudad de San LuisArgentina
  3. 3.Department of Biochemistry and Molecular BiologyInstituto Biofisika (UPV/EHU, CSIC), University of the Basque Country (EHU)LeioaSpain

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