Guanidine Hydrochloride-Induced Hepatitis B Virus Capsid Disassembly Hysteresis

Daniel Khaykelson, Roi Asor, Zhongchao Zhao, Christopher John Schlicksup, Adam Zlotnick, Uri Raviv*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hepatitis B virus (HBV) displays remarkable self-assembly capabilities that interest the scientific community and biotechnological industries as HBV is leading to an annual mortality of up to 1 million people worldwide (especially in Africa and Southeast Asia). When the ionic strength is increased, hepatitis B virus-like particles (VLPs) can assemble from dimers of the first 149 residues of the HBV capsid protein core assembly domain (Cp149). Using solution small-angle X-ray scattering, we investigated the disassembly of the VLPs by titrating guanidine hydrochloride (GuHCl). Measurements were performed with and without 1 M NaCl, added either before or after titrating GuHCl. Fitting the scattering curves to a linear combination of atomic models of Cp149 dimer (the subunit) and T = 3 and T = 4 icosahedral capsids revealed the mass fraction of the dimer in each structure in all the titration points. Based on the mass fractions, the variation in the dimer-dimer association standard free energy was calculated as a function of added GuHCl, showing a linear relation between the interaction strength and GuHCl concentration. Using the data, we estimated the energy barriers for assembly and disassembly and the critical nucleus size for all of the assembly reactions. Extrapolating the standard free energy to [GuHCl] = 0 showed an evident hysteresis in the assembly process, manifested by differences in the dimer-dimer association standard free energy obtained for the disassembly reactions compared with the equivalent assembly reactions. Similar hysteresis was observed in the energy barriers for assembly and disassembly and the critical nucleus size. The results suggest that above 1.5 M, GuHCl disassembled the capsids by attaching to the protein and adding steric repulsion, thereby weakening the hydrophobic attraction.

Original languageAmerican English
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

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© 2024 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society.

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