Development of virus-like particle technology from small highly symmetric to large complex virus-like particle structures

Intervirology. 2013;56(3):141-65. doi: 10.1159/000346773. Epub 2013 Apr 16.


Virus-like particle (VLP) technology is a promising approach for the construction of novel vaccines, diagnostic tools, and gene therapy vectors. Initially, VLPs were primarily derived from non-enveloped icosahedral or helical viruses and proved to be viable vaccine candidates due to their effective presentation of epitopes in a native conformation. VLP technology has also been used to prepare chimeric VLPs decorated with genetically fused or chemically coupled epitope stretches selected from immunologically defined target proteins. However, structural constraints associated with the rigid geometrical architecture of icosahedral or helical VLPs pose challenges for the expression and presentation of large epitopes. Complex VLPs derived from non-symmetric enveloped viruses are increasingly being used to incorporate large epitopes and even full-length foreign proteins. Pleomorphic VLPs derived from influenza or other enveloped viruses can accommodate multiple full-length and/or chimeric proteins that can be rationally designed for multifunctional purposes, including multivalent vaccines. Therefore, a second generation of VLP carriers is represented by complex particles reconstructed from natural or chimeric structural proteins derived from complex enveloped viruses. Further development of safe and efficient VLP nanotechnology may require a rational combination of both approaches.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotechnology / methods*
  • Drug Carriers*
  • Epitopes / genetics
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • Genetic Engineering / methods*
  • Humans
  • Technology, Pharmaceutical / methods*
  • Virosomes / genetics*
  • Viruses / genetics


  • Drug Carriers
  • Epitopes
  • Virosomes