3D ENGINEERING OF VIRUS-BASED PROTEIN NANOTUBES AND RODS: A TOOLKIT FOR GENERATING NOVEL NANOSTRUCTURED MATERIALS
Brown, Adam Degen
Culver, James N
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Technological innovation at the nanometer scale has the potential to improve a wide range of applications, including energy storage, sensing of environmental and medical signals, and targeted drug delivery. A key challenge in this area is the ability to create complex structures at the nanometer scale. Difficulties in meeting this challenge using traditional fabrication methods have prompted interest in biological processes, which provide inspiration for complex structural organization at nanometer to micrometer length scales from self-assembling components produced inexpensively from common materials. From that perspective, a system of targeted modifications to the primary amino acid structure of Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) capsid protein (CP) has been developed that induces new self-assembling behaviors to produce nanometer-scale particles with novel architectures. TMV CPs contain several negatively charged carboxylate residues which interact repulsively with those of adjacent CP subunits to destabilize the assembled TMV particle. Here, the replacement of these negatively charged carboxylate residues with neutrally charged or positively charged residues results in the spontaneous assembly of bacterially expressed CP into TMV virus-like particles (VLPs) with a range of environmental stabilities and morphologies and which can be engineered to attach perpendicularly to surfaces and to display functional molecular patterns such as target-binding peptide chains or chemical groups for attachment of functional targets. In addition, the distinct electrostatic surface charges of these CP variants enable the higher-level coassembly of TMV and VLP into continuous rod-shaped nanoparticles with longitudinally segregated distribution of functionalities and surface properties. Furthermore, the unique, novel, environmentally responsive assembly and disassembly behaviors of the modified CPs are shown to act as simple mechanisms to control the fabrication of these hierarchically structured functional nanoparticles.