Interior engineering of a viral nanoparticle and its tumor homing properties

Amy M. Wen, Sourabh Shukla, Pooja Saxena, Alaa A.A. Aljabali, Ibrahim Yildiz, Sourav Dey, Joshua E. Mealy, Alice C. Yang, David J. Evans, George P. Lomonossoff, Nicole F. Steinmetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


The development of multifunctional nanoparticles for medical applications is of growing technological interest. A single formulation containing imaging and/or drug moieties that is also capable of preferential uptake in specific cells would greatly enhance diagnostics and treatments. There is growing interest in plant-derived viral nanoparticles (VNPs) and establishing new platform technologies based on these nanoparticles inspired by nature. Cowpea mosaic virus (CPMV) serves as the standard model for VNPs. Although exterior surface modification is well-known and has been comprehensively studied, little is known of interior modification. Additional functionality conferred by the capability for interior engineering would be of great benefit toward the ultimate goal of targeted drug delivery. Here, we examined the capacity of empty CPMV (eCPMV) particles devoid of RNA to encapsulate a wide variety of molecules. We systematically investigated the conjugation of fluorophores, biotin affinity tags, large molecular weight polymers such as poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG), and various peptides through targeting reactive cysteines displayed selectively on the interior surface. Several methods are described that mutually confirm specific functionalization of the interior. Finally, CPMV and eCPMV were labeled with near-infrared fluorophores and studied side-by-side in vitro and in vivo. Passive tumor targeting via the enhanced permeability and retention effect and optical imaging were confirmed using a preclinical mouse model of colon cancer. The results of our studies lay the foundation for the development of the eCPMV platform in a range of biomedical applications.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)3990-4001
Number of pages12
Issue number12
StatePublished - 10 Dec 2012


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