Design and Functional Analysis of Heterobifunctional Multivalent Phage Capsid Inhibitors Blocking the Entry of Influenza Virus
L. Adam, E. Muller, K. Ludwig, S. Klenk, D. Lauster, S. Liese, A. Herrmann and C. P. R. Hackenberger – 2022
Multiple conjugation of virus-binding ligands to multivalent carriers is a prominent strategy to construct highly affine virus binders for the inhibition of viral entry into host cells. In a previous study, we introduced rationally designed sialic acid conjugates of bacteriophages (Qbeta) that match the triangular binding site geometry on hemagglutinin spike proteins of influenza A virions, resulting in effective infection inhibition in vitro and in vivo. In this work, we demonstrate that even partially sialylated Qbeta conjugates retain the inhibitory effect despite reduced activity. These observations not only support the importance of trivalent binding events in preserving high affinity, as supported by computational modeling, but also allow us to construct heterobifunctional modalities. Capsids carrying two different sialic acid ligand-linker structures showed higher viral inhibition than their monofunctional counterparts. Furthermore, capsids carrying a fluorescent dye in addition to sialic acid ligands were used to track their interaction with cells. These findings support exploring broader applications as multivalent inhibitors in the future.