Optimal Cytoplasmic Transport in Viral Infections
For many viruses, the ability to infect eukaryotic cells depends on their transport through the cytoplasm and across the nuclear membrane of the host cell. During this journey, viral contents are biochemically processed into complexes capable of both nuclear penetration and genomic integration. We develop a stochastic model of viral entry that incorporates all relevant aspects of transport, including convection along microtubules, biochemical conversion, degradation, and nuclear entry. Analysis of the nuclear infection probabilities in terms of the transport velocity, degradation, and biochemical conversion rates shows how certain values of key parameters can maximize the nuclear entry probability of the viral material. The existence of such “optimal” infection scenarios depends on the details of the biochemical conversion process and implies potentially counterintuitive effects in viral infection, suggesting new avenues for antiviral treatment. Such optimal parameter values provide a plausible transport-based explanation of the action of restriction factors and of experimentally observed optimal capsid stability. Finally, we propose a new interpretation of how genetic mutations unrelated to the mechanism of drug action may nonetheless confer novel types of overall drug resistance.