The Structures and Functions of Parvovirus Capsids and Missing Pieces: the Viral DNA and Its Packaging, Asymmetrical Features, Nonprotein Components, and Receptor or Antibody Binding and Interactions

Robert A. López-Astacio, Oluwafemi F. Adu, Hyunwook Lee, Susan L. Hafenstein, Colin R. Parrish

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Parvoviruses are among the smallest and superficially simplest animal viruses, infecting a broad range of hosts, including humans, and causing some deadly infections. In 1990, the first atomic structure of the canine parvovirus (CPV) capsid revealed a 26-nm-diameter T=1 particle made up of two or three versions of a single protein, and packaging about 5,100 nucleotides of single-stranded DNA. Our structural and functional understanding of parvovirus capsids and their ligands has increased as imaging and molecular techniques have advanced, and capsid structures for most groups within the Parvoviridae family have now been determined. Despite those advances, significant questions remain unanswered about the functioning of those viral capsids and their roles in release, transmission, or cellular infection. In addition, the interactions of capsids with host receptors, antibodies, or other biological components are also still incompletely understood. The parvovirus capsid’s apparent simplicity likely conceals important functions carried out by small, transient, or asymmetric structures. Here, we highlight some remaining open questions that may need to be answered to provide a more thorough understanding of how these viruses carry out their various functions. The many different members of the family Parvoviridae share a capsid architecture, and while many functions are likely similar, others may differ in detail. Many of those parvoviruses have not been experimentally examined in detail (or at all in some cases), so we, therefore, focus this minireview on the widely studied protoparvoviruses, as well as the most thoroughly investigated examples of adeno-associated viruses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology

Cite this