Virus like particles obtained from the Cowpea Chlorotic Mottle Virus (CCMV) represent an innovative platform for drug delivery applications. Their unique reversible self-assembly properties as well as their suitability for both cargo loading and functionalization make them a versatile scaffold for numerous purposes. One of the main drawbacks of this platform is however its limited stability at physiological conditions. Herein, we report the development of a general reversible cross-linking strategy involving the homobifunctional cross-linker DTSSP (3,3′-dithiobis (sulfosuccinimidylpropionate)) which is suitable for particle stabilization. This methodology is adaptable to different CCMV variants in the presence or absence of a stabilizing cargo without varying neither particle shape nor size thus extending the potential use of these protein cages in nanomedical applications. Cross-linked particles are stable at neutral pH and 37 °C and they are capable of protecting loaded cargo against enzymatic digestion. Furthermore, the reversible nature of the cross-linking ensures particle disassembly when they are taken up by cells. This was demonstrated via the highly effective delivery of active siRNA into cells.
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