Enteroviruses are a cause of a bunch of infamous and pernicious diseases, from polio to hand, foot and mouth disease, but because of their size and variability studying them has proven to be a significant challenge. Being able to attach tracking particles that are discreet enough not to affect the behavior of the virus may revolutionize our ability to study these pathogens, perhaps as significantly as green fluorescent protein (GFP) has done for cellular science.
Researchers from University of Jyväskylä in Finland have now reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the development of modified gold nanoparticles that bind to enteroviruses, but don’t alter their ability to infect target hosts. The particles are made of thiol-stabilized 1.5nm metal core Au102 gold clusters and covalently bind close to the surface of the viruses.
From the Academy of Finland:
The organic thiol surface of the Au102 particles is modified by attaching linker molecules that make a chemical bond to sulfur-containing cysteine residues that are part of the surface structure of the virus. Several tens of gold particles can bind to a single virus, and the binding pattern shows up as dark tags reflecting the overall shape and structure of the virus (see figure). The gold particles allow for studies on the structural changes of the viruses during their lifespan.
The study also showed that the infectivity of the viruses is not compromised by the attached gold particles, which indicates that the labelling method does not interfere with the normal biological functions of viruses inside cells. This facilitates new investigations on the virus structures from samples taken from inside cells during the various phases of the virus infection, and makes it possible to obtain new information on the mechanisms of virus uncoating (opening and release of the genome). The new method also allows for tracking studies of virus pathways in tissues. This is important for further the understanding of acute and chronic symptoms caused by viruses. Finally, the method is expected to be useful for developing new antiviral vaccines based on virus-like particles.
Study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Site-specific targeting of enterovirus capsid by functionalized monodisperse gold nanoclusters…
Press statement by the Academy of Finland: Gold nanoparticles help develop new method for tracking viruses…