Computational virology: From the inside out.
Reddy T., Sansom MSP.
Viruses typically pack their genetic material within a protein capsid. Enveloped viruses also have an outer membrane made up of a lipid bilayer and membrane-spanning glycoproteins. X-ray diffraction and cryoelectron microscopy provide high resolution static views of viral structure. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations may be used to provide dynamic insights into the structures of viruses and their components. There have been a number of simulations of viral capsids and (in some cases) of the inner core of RNA or DNA packaged within them. These simulations have generally focussed on the structural integrity and stability of the capsid and/or on the influence of the nucleic acid core on capsid stability. More recently there have been a number of simulation studies of enveloped viruses, including HIV-1, influenza A, and dengue virus. These have addressed the dynamic behaviour of the capsid, the matrix, and/or of the outer envelope. Analysis of the dynamics of the lipid bilayer components of the envelopes of influenza A and of dengue virus reveals a degree of biophysical robustness, which may contribute to the stability of virus particles in different environments. Significant computational challenges need to be addressed to aid simulation of complex viruses and their membranes, including the need to integrate structural data from a range of sources to enable us to move towards simulations of intact virions. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Membrane Proteins edited by J.C. Gumbart and Sergei Noskov.