Self-assembled virus-membrane complexes

Nat Mater. 2004 Sep;3(9):615-9. doi: 10.1038/nmat1195. Epub 2004 Aug 15.


Anionic polyelectrolytes and cationic lipid membranes can self-assemble into lamellar structures ranging from alternating layers of membranes and polyelectrolytes to 'missing layer' superlattice structures. We show that these structural differences can be understood in terms of the surface-charge-density mismatch between the polyelectrolyte and membrane components by examining complexes between cationic membranes and highly charged M13 viruses, a system that allowed us to vary the polyelectrolyte diameter independently of the charge density. Such virus-membrane complexes have pore sizes that are about ten times larger in area than DNA-membrane complexes, and can be used to package and organize large functional molecules; correlated arrays of Ru(bpy)(3)(2+) macroionic dyes have been directly observed within the virus-membrane complexes using an electron-density reconstruction. These observations elucidate fundamental design rules for rational control of self-assembled polyelectrolyte-membrane structures, which have applications ranging from non-viral gene therapy to biomolecular templates for nanofabrication.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophage M13 / chemistry*
  • Biocompatible Materials / chemistry*
  • Biopolymers / chemistry
  • Capsid Proteins / chemistry*
  • Complex Mixtures / chemistry
  • Crystallization / methods*
  • DNA / chemistry
  • Electrolytes / chemistry
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry*
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Membranes, Artificial*
  • Nanotechnology / methods*
  • Porosity
  • Ruthenium / chemistry
  • Solutions
  • Surface Properties


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Biopolymers
  • Capsid Proteins
  • Complex Mixtures
  • Electrolytes
  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Solutions
  • Ruthenium
  • DNA