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Design Rules for Sequestration of Viruses into Polypeptide Complex Coacervates

Encapsulation is a strategy that has been used to facilitate the delivery and increase the stability of proteins and viruses. Here, we investigate the encapsulation of viruses via complex coacervation, which is a liquid–liquid phase separation resulting from the complexation of oppositely charged polymers. In particular, we utilized polypeptide-based coacervates and explored the effects of peptide chemistry, chain length, charge patterning, and hydrophobicity to better understand the effects of the coacervating polypeptides on virus incorporation. Our study utilized two nonenveloped viruses, porcine parvovirus (PPV) and human rhinovirus (HRV). PPV has a higher charge density than HRV, and they both appear to be relatively hydrophobic. These viruses were compared to characterize how the charge, hydrophobicity, and patterning of chemistry on the surface of the virus capsid affects encapsulation. Consistent with the electrostatic nature of complex coacervation, our results suggest that electrostatic effects associated with the net charge of both the virus and polypeptide dominated the potential for incorporating the virus into a coacervate, with clustering of charges also playing a significant role. Additionally, the hydrophobicity of a virus appears to determine the degree to which increasing the hydrophobicity of the coacervating peptides can enhance virus uptake. Nonintuitive trends in uptake were observed with regard to both charge patterning and polypeptide chain length, with these parameters having a significant effect on the range of coacervate compositions over which virus incorporation was observed. These results provide insights into biophysical mechanisms, where sequence effects can control the uptake of proteins or viruses into biological condensates and provide insights for use in formulation strategies.
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