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Nat Chem. 2012 Oct;4(10):781-8. doi: 10.1038/nchem.1442. Epub 2012 Aug 26.

Use of the interior cavity of the P22 capsid for site-specific initiation of atom-transfer radical polymerization with high-density cargo loading.

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Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, 59717, USA.


Virus-like particles (VLPs) have emerged as important and versatile architectures for chemical manipulation in the development of functional hybrid nanostructures. Here we demonstrate a successful site-selective initiation of atom-transfer radical polymerization reactions to form an addressable polymer constrained within the interior cavity of a VLP. Potentially, this protein-polymer hybrid of P22 and cross-linked poly(2-aminoethyl methacrylate) could be useful as a new high-density delivery vehicle for the encapsulation and delivery of small-molecule cargos. In particular, the encapsulated polymer can act as a scaffold for the attachment of small functional molecules, such as fluorescein dye or the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agent Gd-diethylenetriaminepentacetate, through reactions with its pendant primary amine groups. Using this approach, a significant increase in the labelling density of the VLP, compared to that of previous modifications of VLPs, can be achieved. These results highlight the use of multimeric protein-polymer conjugates for their potential utility in the development of VLP-based MRI contrast agents with the possibility of loading other cargos.

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