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Monodisperse self-assembly in a model with protein-like interactions

Alex W. Wilber, Jonathan P. K. Doye, Ard A. Louis and Anna C. F. Lewis

J. Chem. Phys. 131, 175102 (2009)


We study the self-assembly behaviour of patchy particles with `protein-like' interactions that can be considered as a minimal model for the assembly of viral capsids and other shell-like protein complexes. We thoroughly explore the thermodynamics and dynamics of self assembly as a function of the parameters of the model and find robust assembly of all target structures considered. Optimal assembly occurs in the region of parameter space where a free energy barrier regulates the rate of nucleation, thus preventing the premature exhaustion of the supply of monomers that can lead to the formation of incomplete shells. The interactions also need to be specific enough to prevent the assembly of malformed shells, but whilst maintaining kinetic accessibility. Free-energy landscapes computed for our model have a funnel-like topography guiding the system to form the target structure, and show that the torsional component of the interparticle interactions prevents the formation of disordered aggregates that would otherwise act as kinetic traps.

The full paper is available from JCP Online and arXiv.org.