Nano Research

, Volume 2, Issue 5, pp 349–364 | Cite as

Viruses and virus-like protein assemblies—Chemically programmable nanoscale building blocks

  • L. Andrew Lee
  • Zhongwei Niu
  • Qian Wang
Open Access
Review Article


Supramolecular proteins are generated using a limited set of twenty amino acids, but have distinctive functionalities which arise from the sequential arrangement of amino acids configured to exquisite three-dimensional structures. Viruses, virus-like particles, ferritins, enzyme complexes, cellular micro-compartments, and other supramolecular protein assemblies exemplify these systems, with their precise arrangements of tens to hundreds of molecules into highly organized scaffolds for nucleic acid packaging, metal storage, catalysis or sequestering reactions at the nanometer scale. These versatile protein systems, dubbed as bionanoparticles (BNPs), have attracted materials scientists to seek new opportunities with these pre-fabricated templates in a wide range of nanotechnology-related applications. Here, we focus on some of the key modification strategies that have been utilized, ranging from basic protein conjugation techniques to more novel strategies, to expand the functionalities of these multimeric protein assemblies. Ultimately, in combination with molecular cloning and sophisticated chemistries, these BNPs are being incorporated into many applications ranging from functional materials to novel biomedical drug designs.


Bionanoparticles virus bioconjugation nanomaterials bioimaging drug delivery 


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© Tsinghua University Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and NanocenterUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

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