Coupling Microscopy and Flow Cytometry for a Comprehensive Characterization of Nanoparticle Production in Insect Cells

Eduard Puente-Massaguer, Paolo Saccardo, Neus Ferrer-Miralles, Martí Lecina, Francesc Gòdia

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Advancements in the field of characterization techniques have broadened the opportunities to deepen into nanoparticle production bioprocesses. Gag-based virus-like particles (VLPs) have shown their potential as candidates for recombinant vaccine development. However, comprehensive characterization of the production process is still a requirement to meet the desired critical quality attributes. In this work, the production process of Gag VLPs by baculovirus (BV) infection in the reference High Five and Sf9 insect cell lines is characterized in detail. To this end, the Gag polyprotein was fused in frame to the enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) to favor process evaluation with multiple analytical tools. Tracking of the infection process using confocal microscopy and flow cytometry revealed a pronounced increase in the complexity of High Five over Sf9 cells. Cryogenic transmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM) characterization determined that changes in cell complexity could be attributed to the presence of occlusion-derived BV in High Five cells, whereas Sf9 cells evidenced a larger proportion of the budded virus phenotype (23-fold). Initial evaluation of the VLP production process using spectrofluorometry showed that higher levels of the Gag-eGFP polyprotein were obtained in High Five cells (3.6-fold). However, comparative analysis based on nanoparticle quantification by flow virometry and nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA) proved that Sf9 cells were 1.7- and 1.5-fold more productive in terms of assembled VLPs, respectively. Finally, analytical ultracentrifugation coupled to flow virometry evidenced a larger sedimentation coefficient of High Five-derived VLPs, indicating a possible interaction with other cellular compounds. Taken together, these results highlight the combined use of microscopy and flow cytometry techniques to improve vaccine development processes using the insect cell/BV expression vector system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)921-932
Number of pages12
JournalCytometry Part A
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


  • baculovirus
  • cryo-TEM
  • flow cytometry
  • flow virometry
  • occlusion-derived virus
  • virus-like particle


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