Nanoscale Structural Characterization of Individual Viral Particles Using Atomic Force Microscopy Infrared Spectroscopy (AFM-IR) and Tip-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (TERS)

Anal Chem. 2020 Aug 18;92(16):11297-11304. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.0c01971. Epub 2020 Aug 4.


Viruses are infections species that infect a large spectrum of living systems. Although displaying a wide variety of shapes and sizes, they are all composed of nucleic acid encapsulated into a protein capsid. After virions enter the host cell, they replicate to produce multiple copies of themselves. They then lyse the host, releasing virions to infect new cells. The high proliferation rate of viruses is the underlying cause of their fast transmission among living species. Although many viruses are harmless, some of them are responsible for severe diseases such as AIDS, viral hepatitis, and flu. Traditionally, electron microscopy is used to identify and characterize viruses. This approach is time- and labor-consuming, which is problematic upon pandemic proliferation of previously unknown viruses, such as H1N1 and COVID-19. Herein, we demonstrate a novel diagnosis approach for label-free identification and structural characterization of individual viruses that is based on a combination of nanoscale Raman and infrared spectroscopy. Using atomic force microscopy-infrared (AFM-IR) spectroscopy, we were able to probe structural organization of the virions of Herpes Simplex Type 1 viruses and bacteriophage MS2. We also showed that tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS) could be used to reveal protein secondary structure and amino acid composition of the virus surface. Our results show that AFM-IR and TERS provide different but complementary information about the structure of complex biological specimens. This structural information can be used for fast and reliable identification of viruses. This nanoscale bimodal imaging approach can be also used to investigate the origin of viral polymorphism and study mechanisms of virion assembly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Betacoronavirus / isolation & purification
  • Betacoronavirus / physiology
  • COVID-19
  • Capsid / chemistry
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Coronavirus Infections / pathology
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • Discriminant Analysis
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / physiology
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / physiology
  • Least-Squares Analysis
  • Levivirus / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force / methods*
  • Nanostructures / chemistry*
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / pathology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Spectrum Analysis, Raman / methods*
  • Vero Cells
  • Virion / chemistry*