, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 161-162

Special issue on physical virology

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Compared to organisms such as bacteria and eukaryotic cells, viruses have such a low level of complexity that they were at first regarded as being proto-organisms, at the borderline between living and inanimate matter. This view was gradually superseded by the recognition that viruses are highly efficient organisms which have evolved in order to hijack the “active” biological machinery of the infected cells.

Recent studies revealed how physical mechanisms are used by the viruses for guiding all salient steps of their “life cycle” This fact has also strongly motivated the recent upsurge of theoretical and experimental studies addressing the molecular basis of the key problems in virology. Specifically, the topics that are presently investigated most intensively include the following: the self-assembly and maturation of viral capsids, the functioning of the molecular motors that loads the viral genome inside preformed capsids, the conformational arrangement of the DNA or RNA inside capsid