Tracking lipid surface area in the human influenza A virus

9 November 2012
09:45
to
11:00
Abstract

PLEASE NOTE EARLY START TIME TO AVOID CLASH WITH OCCAM GROUP MEETING

The human influenza A virus causes three to five million cases of severe illness and about 250 000 to 500 000 deaths each year. The 1918 Spanish Flu may have killed more than 40 million people. Yet, the underlying cause of the seasonality of the human influenza virus, its preferential transmission in winter in temperate climates, remains controversial. One of the major forms of the human influenza virus is a sphere made up of lipids selectively derived from the host cell along with specialized viral proteins. I have employed molecular dynamics simulations to study the biophysical properties of a single transmissible unit--an approximately spherical influenza A virion in water (i.e., to mimic the water droplets present in normal transmission of the virus). The surface area per lipid can't be calculated as a ratio of the surface area of the sphere to the number of lipids present as there are many different species of lipid for which different surface area values should be calculated. The 'mosaic' of lipid surface areas may be regarded quantitatively as a Voronoi diagram, but construction of a true spherical Voronoi tessellation is more challenging than the well-established methods for planar Voronoi diagrams. I describe my attempt to implement an approach to the spherical Voronoi problem (based on: Hyeon-Suk Na, Chung-Nim Lee, Otfried Cheong. Computational Geometry 23 (2002) 183–194) and the challenges that remain in the implementation of this algorithm.

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