Retrovirus particle (virion) infectivity requires diffusion and clustering of multiple transmembrane envelope proteins (Env3) on the virion exterior, yet is triggered by protease-dependent degradation of a partially occluding, membrane-bound Gag polyprotein lattice on the virion interior. The physical mechanism underlying such coupling is unclear and only indirectly accessible via experiment. Modelling stands to provide insight but the required spatio-temporal range far exceeds current accessibility by all-atom or even coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations. Nor do such approaches account for chemical reactions, while conversely, reaction kinetics approaches handle neither diffusion nor clustering. Here, a recently developed multiscale approach is considered that applies an ultra-coarse-graining scheme to treat entire proteins at near-single particle resolution, but which also couples chemical reactions with diffusion and interactions. A model is developed of Env3 molecules embedded in a truncated Gag lattice composed of membrane-bound matrix proteins linked to capsid subunits, with freely diffusing protease molecules. Simulations suggest that in the presence of Gag but in the absence of lateral lattice-forming interactions, Env3 diffuses comparably to Gag-absent Env3. Initial immobility of Env3 is conferred through lateral caging by matrix trimers vertically coupled to the underlying hexameric capsid layer. Gag cleavage by protease vertically decouples the matrix and capsid layers, induces both matrix and Env3 diffusion, and permits Env3 clustering. Spreading across the entire membrane surface reduces crowding, in turn, enhancing the effect and promoting infectivity.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Multiscale modelling at the physics–chemistry–biology interface’.
One contribution of 17 to a theme issue ‘Multiscale modelling at the physics–chemistry–biology interface’.
- Accepted August 22, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.