The formation of 2D arrays of three small icosahedral RNA viruses with known 3D structures (tomato bushy stunt virus, turnip yellow mosaic virus and bromegrass mosaic virus) has been investigated to determine the role of each component of a negative staining solution containing ammonium molybdate and polyethylene glycol. Virion association was monitored by dynamic light scattering (DLS) and virus array formation was visualised by conventional transmission electron microscopy and cryo-electron microscopy after negative staining. The structural properties of viral arrays prepared in vitro were compared to those of microcrystals found in the leaves of infected plants. A novel form of macroscopic 3D crystals of turnip yellow mosaic virus has been grown in the negative staining solution. On the basis of the experimental results, the hypothesis is advanced that microscopic arrays might be planar crystallisation nuclei. The formation of 2D crystals and the enhancing effect of polyethylene glycol on the self-organisation of virions at the air/water interface are discussed. Synopsis: The formation of 2D arrays of icosahedral viruses was investigated by spectroscopic and transmission electron microscopic methods. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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