Here we review the current knowledge on maturation of adenovirus, a non-enveloped icosahedral eukaryotic virus. The adenovirus dsDNA genome fills the capsid in complex with a large amount of histone-like viral proteins, forming the core. Maturation involves proteolytic cleavage of several capsid and core precursor proteins by the viral protease (AVP). AVP uses a peptide cleaved from one of its targets as a “molecular sled” to slide on the viral genome and reach its substrates, in a remarkable example of one-dimensional chemistry. Immature adenovirus containing the precursor proteins lacks infectivity because of its inability to uncoat. The immature core is more compact and stable than the mature one, due to the condensing action of unprocessed core polypeptides; shell precursors underpin the vertex region and the connections between capsid and core. Maturation makes the virion metastable, priming it for stepwise uncoating by facilitating vertex release and loosening the condensed genome and its attachment to the icosahedral shell. The packaging scaffold protein L1 52/55k is also a substrate for AVP. Proteolytic processing of L1 52/55k disrupts its interactions with other virion components, providing a mechanism for its removal during maturation. Finally, possible roles for maturation of the terminal protein are discussed.
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