Phage capsid nanoparticles with defined ligand arrangement block influenza virus entry

Nat Nanotechnol. 2020 May;15(5):373-379. doi: 10.1038/s41565-020-0660-2. Epub 2020 Mar 30.


Multivalent interactions at biological interfaces occur frequently in nature and mediate recognition and interactions in essential physiological processes such as cell-to-cell adhesion. Multivalency is also a key principle that allows tight binding between pathogens and host cells during the initial stages of infection. One promising approach to prevent infection is the design of synthetic or semisynthetic multivalent binders that interfere with pathogen adhesion1-4. Here, we present a multivalent binder that is based on a spatially defined arrangement of ligands for the viral spike protein haemagglutinin of the influenza A virus. Complementary experimental and theoretical approaches demonstrate that bacteriophage capsids, which carry host cell haemagglutinin ligands in an arrangement matching the geometry of binding sites of the spike protein, can bind to viruses in a defined multivalent mode. These capsids cover the entire virus envelope, thus preventing its binding to the host cell as visualized by cryo-electron tomography. As a consequence, virus infection can be inhibited in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo. Such highly functionalized capsids present an alternative to strategies that target virus entry by spike-inhibiting antibodies5 and peptides6 or that address late steps of the viral replication cycle7.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • A549 Cells
  • Allolevivirus / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Capsid / metabolism*
  • Dogs
  • Hemagglutinin Glycoproteins, Influenza Virus / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Influenza A virus / physiology*
  • Influenza, Human / metabolism
  • Influenza, Human / prevention & control*
  • Influenza, Human / virology
  • Ligands
  • Madin Darby Canine Kidney Cells
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nanoparticles / metabolism
  • Nanoparticles / therapeutic use*
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / metabolism
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / prevention & control
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / virology
  • Virus Internalization*


  • Hemagglutinin Glycoproteins, Influenza Virus
  • Ligands
  • hemagglutinin, human influenza A virus