Virus-like Particles Armored by an Endoskeleton

Nano Lett. 2024 Mar 13;24(10):2989-2997. doi: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.3c03806. Epub 2024 Jan 31.


Many virus-like particles (VLPs) have good chemical, thermal, and mechanical stabilities compared to those of other biologics. However, their stability needs to be improved for the commercialization and use in translation of VLP-based materials. We developed an endoskeleton-armored strategy for enhancing VLP stability. Specifically, the VLPs of physalis mottle virus (PhMV) and Qβ were used to demonstrate this concept. We built an internal polymer "backbone" using a maleimide-PEG15-maleimide cross-linker to covalently interlink viral coat proteins inside the capsid cavity, while the native VLPs are held together by only noncovalent bonding between subunits. Endoskeleton-armored VLPs exhibited significantly improved thermal stability (95 °C for 15 min), increased resistance to denaturants (i.e., surfactants, pHs, chemical denaturants, and organic solvents), and enhanced mechanical performance. Single-molecule force spectroscopy demonstrated a 6-fold increase in rupture distance and a 1.9-fold increase in rupture force of endoskeleton-armored PhMV. Overall, this endoskeleton-armored strategy provides more opportunities for the development and applications of materials.

Keywords: cross-linking; protein cage; single-molecule force spectroscopy; stabilization; virus-like particles (VLPs).

MeSH terms

  • Capsid Proteins* / chemistry
  • Capsid* / chemistry
  • Maleimides / analysis


  • Capsid Proteins
  • Maleimides