Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) forms a stable nucleoprotein nanotube measuring 300x18 nm with a 4 nm-wide channel, consisting of a single RNA scaffold and more than 2100 protein subunits. It can be produced in gram-scale using plants; the proteins can be dis- and re-assembled on suitable RNA constructs yielding TMV-like rods in vitro. Genetic and chemical modification of both RNA core and the multivalent protein shell can be carried out to add functional ligands such as enzymes, peptides, dyes, or inorganic agents. Wege and her group have established procedures that allow to control the nanotubes' aspect ratio and overall shape (including nanostar colloids and sticks with pre-defined longitudinal arrangements of distinct surface chemistry), and methods for the bottom-up growth of TMV rods on technical substrates on demand. The resulting hybrid structures are promising candidates for the high-density presentation of molecules in 'systems-on-a-chip' or 'liquid arrays', providing versatile multivalent soft-matter interfaces with technical and biochemical environments. In fruitful collaborations with chemists, physicists and materials researchers it has become possible to stabilize ferrofluids with TMV-derived additives, streamline the production of semiconducting transistor components via TMV templating, and to equip virus-derived adaptor backbones efficiently with fluorophores and enzymes, thus achieving a sterically favorable ultra dense arrangement of functionalities expected to permit the operation of complex diagnostic and/or catalytic multiplex tasks.
Prof. Dr. Christina Wege (apl.) is working in the Department of Molecular Biology and Plant Virology at the University of Stuttgart, Germany, in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomolecular Systems. The department (head: Prof. Dr. H. Jeske) is the largest research center focusing on virus-based nanotechnology and hybrid materials as well as on molecular plant virology in Germany.
Christina Wege is a molecular virologist highly experienced in the area of virus-host interactions resulting in plant diseases. She has also built up a research focus on tobacco mosaic virus (TMV-)-derived bio templates and building blocks in analytical and technical applications during recent years, and is coordinator of the newly founded research focus "NanoBioMater" at the University of Stuttgart (funded by the Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung), in collaboration with the Institute of Interfacial Process Engineering and Plasma Technology (IGVP) and the Institute of Organic Chemistry (IOC). Her main achievements in the area of plant virus-enabled nanotechnology include tailored interactions between virus-like particles and organic as well as inorganic functional compounds or devices, and the development of methods for self-assembly of TMV-based nanomaterial and carrier architectures.