2D MXenes with antiviral and immunomodulatory properties: A pilot study against SARS-CoV-2

Nano Today. 2021 Jun:38:101136. doi: 10.1016/j.nantod.2021.101136. Epub 2021 Mar 18.


Two-dimensional transition metal carbides/carbonitrides known as MXenes are rapidly growing as multimodal nanoplatforms in biomedicine. Here, taking SARS-CoV-2 as a model, we explored the antiviral properties and immune-profile of a large panel of four highly stable and well-characterized MXenes - Ti3C2Tx, Ta4C3T x , Mo2Ti2C3T x and Nb4C3T x . To start with antiviral assessment, we first selected and deeply analyzed four different SARS-CoV-2 genotypes, common in most countries and carrying the wild type or mutated spike protein. When inhibition of the viral infection was tested in vitro with four viral clades, Ti3C2T x in particular, was able to significantly reduce infection only in SARS-CoV-2/clade GR infected Vero E6 cells. This difference in the antiviral activity, among the four viral particles tested, highlights the importance of considering the viral genotypes and mutations while testing antiviral activity of potential drugs and nanomaterials. Among the other MXenes tested, Mo2Ti2C3T x also showed antiviral properties. Proteomic, functional annotation analysis and comparison to the already published SARS-CoV-2 protein interaction map revealed that MXene-treatment exerts specific inhibitory mechanisms. Envisaging future antiviral MXene-based drug nano-formulations and considering the central importance of the immune response to viral infections, the immune impact of MXenes was evaluated on human primary immune cells by flow cytometry and single-cell mass cytometry on 17 distinct immune subpopulations. Moreover, 40 secreted cytokines were analyzed by Luminex technology. MXene immune profiling revealed i) the excellent bio and immune compatibility of the material, as well as the ability of MXene ii) to inhibit monocytes and iii) to reduce the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, suggesting an anti-inflammatory effect elicited by MXene. We here report a selection of MXenes and viral SARS-CoV-2 genotypes/mutations, a series of the computational, structural and molecular data depicting deeply the SARS-CoV-2 mechanism of inhibition, as well as high dimensional single-cell immune-MXene profiling. Taken together, our results provide a compendium of knowledge for new developments of MXene-based multi-functioning nanosystems as antivirals and immune-modulators.

Keywords: Antiviral properties; Immune system; MXene; Nanomedicine; Single cell mass cytometry; Toxicity; Viral clades.