Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Irvine

UC Irvine Previously Published Works bannerUC Irvine

A guide to the crystallographic analysis of icosahedral viruses


Determining the structure of an icosahedral virus crystal by X-ray diffraction follows very much the same course as conventional protein crystallography. The major differences arise from the relatively large sizes of the particles, which significantly affect the data collection process, data processing and management, and later, the refinement of a model. Most of the other differences are due to the high 5 3 2 point group symmetry of icosahedral viruses. This alters dramatically the means by which initial phases are obtained by molecular substitution, extended to higher resolution by electron density averaging and density modification, and the refinement of the structure in the light of high non-crystallographic symmetry. In this review, we attempt to lead the investigator through the various steps involved in solving the structure of a virus crystal. These steps include the purification of viruses, their crystallization, the recording of X-ray diffraction data, and its reduction to structure amplitudes. It further addresses the problems attending phase determination and ultimately the refinement of a model. Finally, we describe the unique properties of virus crystals and the factors that influence their physical and diffraction properties.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View