Silver Nanoparticles Inhibit Vaccinia virus Infection by Preventing Viral Entry Through a Macropinocytosis-Dependent Mechanism

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Silver nanoparticles have been shown to inhibit viruses. However, very little is known about the mechanism of antiviral activity. This study tested the hypothesis that 25-nm silver nanoparticles inhibited Vaccinia virus replication by preventing viral entry. Plaque reduction, confocal microscopy, and beta-galactosidase reporter gene assays were used to examine viral attachment and entry in the presence and absence of silver nanoparticles. To explore the mechanism of inhibition, viral entry experiments were conducted with silver nanoparticles and small interfering RNAs designed to silence the gene coding for p21-activated kinase 1, a key mediator of macropinocytosis. The silver nanoparticles caused a 4- to 5-log reduction in viral titer at concentrations that were not toxic to cells. Virus was capable of adsorbing to cells but could not enter cells in the presence of silver nanoparticles. Virus particles that had adsorbed to cells in the presence of silver nanoparticles were found to be infectious upon removal from the cells, indicating lack of direct virucidal effect. The half maximal inhibitory concentration for viral entry in the presence of silver nanoparticles was 27.4 +/- 3.3 mu g/ml. When macropinocytosis was blocked, this inhibition was significantly reduced. Thus, macropinocytosis was required for the full antiviral effect. For the first time, this study points to the novel result that a cellular process involved in viral entry is responsible for the antiviral effects of silver nanoparticles.



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