N-terminal VP1 Truncations Favor T = 1 Norovirus-Like Particles


Authors: Heinrich Pette Institute – Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology, European XFEL GmbH, Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien), Indiana University, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Bernard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine and German Center for Infection Research


Noroviruses cause immense sporadic gastroenteritis outbreaks worldwide. Emerging genotypes, which are divided based on the sequence of the major capsid protein VP1, further enhance this public threat. Self-assembling properties of the human norovirus major capsid protein VP1 are crucial for using virus-like particles (VLPs) for vaccine development. However, there is no vaccine available yet. Here, VLPs from different variants produced in insect cells were characterized in detail using a set of biophysical and structural tools. We used native mass spectrometry, gas-phase electrophoretic mobility molecular analysis, and proteomics to get clear insights into particle size, structure, and composition, as well as stability. Generally, noroviruses have been known to form mainly T = 3 particles. Importantly, we identified a major truncation in the capsid proteins as a likely cause for the formation of T = 1 particles. For vaccine development, particle production needs to be a reproducible, reliable process. Understanding the underlying processes in capsid size variation will help to produce particles of a defined capsid size presenting antigens consistent with intact virions. Next to vaccine production itself, this would be immensely beneficial for bio-/nano-technological approaches using viral particles as carriers or triggers for immunological reactions.

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