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Bioconjug Chem. 2011 Mar 16;22(3):376-87. doi: 10.1021/bc100367u. Epub 2011 Feb 28.

Surface functionalization of virus-like particles by direct conjugation using azide-alkyne click chemistry.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305-5025, USA.


We present a cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS) platform and a one-step, direct conjugation scheme for producing virus-like particle (VLP) assemblies that display multiple ligands including proteins, nucleic acids, and other molecules. Using a global methionine replacement approach, we produced bacteriophage MS2 and bacteriophage Qβ VLPs with surface-exposed methionine analogues (azidohomoalanine and homopropargylglycine) containing azide and alkyne side chains. CFPS enabled the production of VLPs with yields of ~ 300 μg/mL and with 85% incorporation of methionine analogues without requiring a methionine auxotrophic production host. We then directly conjugated azide- and alkyne-containing proteins (including an antibody fragment and the granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor, or GM-CSF), nucleic acids and poly(ethylene glycol) chains to the VLP surface using Cu(I) catalyzed click chemistry. The GM-CSF protein, after conjugation to VLPs, was shown to partially retain its ability to stimulate the proliferation of cells. Conjugation of GM-CSF to VLPs resulted in a 3-5-fold reduction in its bioactivity. The direct attachment scheme facilitated conjugation of three different ligands to the VLPs in a single step, and enabled control of the relative ratios and surface abundance of the attached species. This platform can be used for the production of novel VLP bioconjugates for use as drug delivery vehicles, diagnostics, and vaccines.

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