Directed evolution of a virus exclusively utilizing human epidermal growth factor receptor as the entry receptor

J Virol. 2013 Oct;87(20):11231-43. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01054-13. Epub 2013 Aug 7.


Rational design and directed evolution are powerful tools to generate and improve protein function; however, their uses are mostly limited to enzyme and antibody engineering. Here we describe a directed-evolution strategy, named the tandem selection and enrichment system (TSES), and its use in generating virus with exclusive specificity for a particular cellular receptor. In TSES, evolving viruses are sequentially and iteratively transferred between two different host cells, one for selection of receptor specificity and the other for enrichment of the fittest virus. By combining rational design and TSES, we generated human epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-specific virus 1 (ESV1). ESV1 has the backbone of Sindbis virus (SINV) and displays an EGF domain engrafted onto structural protein E2 after residue Pro192, together with eight amino acid changes stabilizing the E2-EGF chimera. ESV1 uses EGFR to initiate infection and has lost the capacity to interact with all known SINV receptors. A 12.2-Å cryoelectron microscopic (cryoEM) reconstruction of ESV1 reveals that the E2-EGF fusion adopts a fixed conformation, with EGF sitting at the top of the E2 spike; The EGFR binding interface faces outward, and the EGF domain completely masks SINV receptor binding. The cryoEM structure of ESV1 explains the desirable properties of ESV1 and provides insights for its further modification. TSES expands the scope of directed evolution and can be easily extended to other targeting molecules and viral systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • Directed Molecular Evolution / methods*
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Virus / genetics
  • Receptors, Virus / metabolism*
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Sindbis Virus / genetics*
  • Sindbis Virus / growth & development*
  • Sindbis Virus / physiology
  • Sindbis Virus / ultrastructure
  • Virion / ultrastructure
  • Virology / methods*
  • Virus Attachment*


  • Receptors, Virus
  • ErbB Receptors