J Virol Methods 2015 Dec 2;225:23-9. Epub 2015 Sep 2.
Biomolecular Diversity Laboratory, Unidad de Genómica Avanzada, Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Unidad Irapuato, Mexico. Electronic address:
Obtaining pure and soluble viral capsid proteins (CPs) has been a major challenge in the fields of science and technology in recent decades. In many cases, the CPs can self-assemble in the absence of a viral genome, resulting in non-infectious, empty virus-like particles (VLPs) which can be safely handled. The use of VLPs has found great potential in biotechnology and health purposes. In addition, VLPs are a good model system to study protein-protein interactions at the molecular level. In this work, an optimized strategy for the heterologous expression of the Cowpea chlorotic mottle virus (CCMV) CP based in Escherichia coli is described. The method is efficient, inexpensive and it consistently produces higher yields and greater purity levels than those reported so far. Additionally, one of the main advantages of this method is the prevention of the formation of inclusion bodies, thus allowing to directly obtain high amounts of the CP in a soluble and functionally active state with the capacity to readily form VLPs in vitro. The CCMV CP self-assembly pH dependence was also investigated, providing guidelines to easily modulate the process.