Biologically inspired strategy for programmed assembly of viral building blocks with controlled dimensions



Facile fabrication of building blocks with precisely controlled dimensions is imperative in the development of functional devices and materials. We demonstrate the assembly of nanoscale viral building blocks of controlled lengths using a biologically motivated strategy. To achieve this we exploit the simple self-assembly mechanism of Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), whose length is solely governed by the length of its genomic mRNA. We synthesize viral mRNA of desired lengths using simple molecular biology techniques, and in vitro assemble the mRNA with viral coat proteins to yield viral building blocks of controlled lengths. The results indicate that the assembly of the viral building blocks is consistent and reproducible, and can be readily extended to assemble building blocks with genetically modified coat proteins (TMV1cys). Additionally, we confirm the potential utility of the TMV1cys viral building blocks with controlled dimensions via covalent and quantitative conjugation of fluorescent markers. We envision that our biologically inspired assembly strategy to design and construct viral building blocks of controlled dimensions could be employed to fabricate well-controlled nanoarchitectures and hybrid nanomaterials for a wide variety of applications including nanoelectronics and nanocatalysis.