15 August 2016
The ongoing battle against current and rising viral infectious threats has prompted increasing effort in the development of vaccine technology. A major thrust in vaccine research focuses on developing formulations with virus-like features towards enhancing antigen presentation and immune processing. Herein, a facile approach to formulate synthetic virus-like particles (sVLPs) is demonstrated by exploiting the phenomenon of protein corona formation induced by the high-energy surfaces of synthetic nanoparticles. Using an avian coronavirus spike protein as a model antigen, sVLPs were prepared by incubating 100 nm gold nanoparticles in a solution containing an optimized concentration of viral proteins. Following removal of free proteins, antigen-laden particles were recovered and showed morphological semblance to natural viral particles under nanoparticle tracking analysis and transmission electron microscopy. As compared to inoculation with free proteins, vaccination with the sVLPs showed enhanced lymphatic antigen delivery, stronger antibody titers, increased splenic T-cell response, and reduced infection-associated symptoms in an avian model of coronavirus infection. Comparison to a commercial whole inactivated virus vaccine also showed evidence of superior antiviral protection by the sVLPs. The study demonstrates a simple yet robust method in bridging viral antigens with synthetic nanoparticles for improved vaccine application; it has practical implications in the management of human viral infections as well as in animal agriculture.