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Virus Capsids

Virus Capsids

Papillomavirus Image Linda M. Stannard, Tobacco Mosaic Virus/USDA, T4 Bacteriophage/©Gary E. Kaiser

Viruses: Capsids

The protein coat that envelopes viral genetic material is known as a capsid. A capsid is composed of protein subunits called capsomeres. Capsids can have several shapes: polyhedral, rod or complex. Capsids function to protect the viral genetic material from damage.

In addition to the protein coat, some viruses have specialized structures. For example, the flu virus has a membrane-like envelope around its capsid. The envelope has both host cell and viral components and assists the virus in infecting its host. Capsid additions are also found in bacteriophages. For example, bacteriophages can have a protein "tail" attached to the capsid that is used to infect host bacteria.

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