Intravital imaging of embryonic and tumor neovasculature using viral nanoparticles
Viral nanoparticles are a novel class of biomolecular agents that take advantage of the natural circulatory and targeting properties of viruses to allow the development of therapeutics, vaccines and imaging tools. We have developed a multivalent nanoparticle platform based on the cowpea mosaic virus (CPMV) that facilitates particle labeling at high density with fluorescent dyes and other functional groups. Compared with other technologies, CPMV-based viral nanoparticles are particularly suited for long-term intravital vascular imaging because of their biocompatibility and retention in the endothelium with minimal side effects. The stable, long-term labeling of the endothelium allows the identification of vasculature undergoing active remodeling in real time. In this study, we describe the synthesis, purification and fluorescent labeling of CPMV nanoparticles, along with their use for imaging of vascular structure and for intravital vascular mapping in developmental and tumor angiogenesis models. Dye-labeled viral nanoparticles can be synthesized and purified in a single day, and imaging studies can be conducted over hours, days or weeks, depending on the application.