Journal of Theoretical Medicine
Volume 6 (2005), Issue 2, Pages 81-85

Local Rule Simulations of Capsid Assembly

1Department of Biological Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, 4400 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15217, USA
2Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA

Copyright © 2005 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Local rules theory describes virus capsid self-assembly in terms of simple local binding preferences of discrete subunit conformations. The theory offered a parsimonious explanation for the complexity and regularity of virus capsids that resolved several inconsistencies between experimental observations and prior theories. Simultaneously, it provided a valuable practical abstraction for simulating the assembly process. Local rule models offered important advantages over other methods in rapidly developing simulations of complex geometries and assembly processes. Subsequent extensions considerably augmented the range of assembly phenomena amenable to simulation studies. Here we review the development of local rule-based simulation models and their applications to basic biology and medicine. We conclude by discussing the future prospects of local rule models for in silico experimentation with capsid assembly.