The propensity for capsid disassembly and uncoating of human adenovirus is modulated by interactions with host cell molecules like integrins and alpha defensins. Here, we use atomic force microscopy (AFM) nanoindentation to elucidate, at the single-particle level,the mechanism by which binding of these host molecules affects virus particle elasticity. Our results demonstrate the direct link between integrin or defensin binding and the mechanical properties of the virus. We show that the structure and geometry of adenovirus result in an anisotropic elastic response that relates to icosahedral symmetry. This elastic response changes upon binding host molecules. Whereas integrin binding softens the vertex regions, binding of a human alpha defensin has exactly the opposite effect. Our results reveal that the ability of these host molecules to influence adenovirus disassembly correlates with a direct effect on the elastic strength of the penton region. Host factors that influence adenovirus infectivity thus modulate the elastic properties of the capsid. Our findings reveal a direct link between virus-host interactions and capsid mechanics. © 2013, American Society for Microbiology.