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Useful scars: Physics of the capsids of archaeal viruses.


We propose a physical model for the capsids of tailed archaeal viruses as viscoelastic membranes under tension. The fluidity is generated by thermal motion of scarlike structures that are an intrinsic feature of the ground state of large particle arrays covering surfaces with nonzero Gauss curvature. The tension is generated by a combination of the osmotic pressure of the enclosed genome and an extension force generated by filamentous structure formation that drives the formation of the tails. In continuum theory, the capsid has the shape of a surface of constant mean curvature: an unduloid. Particle arrays covering unduloids are shown to exhibit pronounced subdiffusive and diffusive single-particle transport at temperatures that are well below the melting temperature of defect-free particle arrays on a surface with zero Gauss curvature.

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