Plant viruses as gene delivery vehicles
The use of animal virus-like particles (VLPs) as vectors for the delivery of genes to mammalian cells has been explored for many years. Plant viruses are almost without exception “just” genetic material (DNA or RNA) surrounded by a shell composed of the capsid protein (CP) – with no membrane envelope. Plant-derived VLPs have not been used for direct gene delivery and expression. There have been no attempts to use a spherical plant viral capsid to deliver heterologous genes for expression in mammalian cells, even though there are several independent demonstrations of the internalization of plant virus by cells. In light of there being no direct demonstration of spherical plant viruses disassembling and thereby releasing their contents in animal cells, this paper asks the question: Can heterologous genes in spherical plant VLPs be made available to a mammalian cell and their protein products synthesized?