Plasmonic techniques for viral membrane characterization
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The lipid bilayer membrane of enveloped viruses, such as human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), plays an important role in key steps of the infection, including cell binding and uptake. Phosphatidylserine (PS) and monosialotetrahexosylganglioside (GM1) are examples of two host-derived lipids in the membrane of enveloped virus particles that are known to contribute to virus attachment, uptake, and ultimately dissemination. A quantitative characterization of their contribution to the functionality of the virus requires information about their relative concentrations in the viral membrane. In this dissertation, a gold nanoparticle (NP) binding assay for probing relative PS and GM1 lipid concentrations in the outer leaflet of different virus-like particles (VLPs) using small sample sizes is introduced. The assay evaluates both scattering intensity and resonance wavelength and determines relative NP densities through plasmon coupling as a measure for the target lipid concentrations in the NP-labeled VLP membrane. The performed studies reveal significant differences in the membrane of HIV-1 and Ebola VLPs that assemble at different intracellular sites and pave the way to an optical quantification of lipid concentration in virus particles at physiological titers. In addition, this technique was used in another application to improve the understanding of the relationship between the membrane PS lipid and the infectivity of HIV-2 and murine leukemia virus (MLV). The composition of the membrane, in particular the cholesterol (chol) content, determines its fluidity. As differences in the membrane composition of individual virus particles can lead to different intracellular fates, biophysical tools capable of probing the membrane fluidity on the single-virus level are required. In this dissertation, we demonstrate that fluctuations in the polarization of light scattered off gold or silver nanoparticle (NP)-labeled virus-like-particles (VLPs) encode information about the membrane fluidity of individual VLPs. We developed a plasmonic polarization fluctuation tracking microscopy (PFTM) which facilitated, for the first time, the investigation of the effect of chol content on the membrane fluidity and its dependence on temperature on the single-VLP level. Chol extraction studies with different methyl-β-cyclodextrin (MβCD) concentrations yielded a gradual decrease in polarization fluctuations as function of time. The PFTM revealed chol content and fluidity heterogeneities of an HIV-1 VLP population.