Quantifying Human Norovirus VLP Binding to Commensal Bacteria Using Flow Cytometry

This article has been accepted and is currently in production


Commensal bacteria are well established to impact infection of eukaryotic viruses. Direct binding between the pathogen and the host microbiome is responsible for altering infection for many of these viruses. Thus, characterizing the nature of virus-bacteria binding is a foundational step needed for elucidating the mechanism(s) by which bacteria alter viral infection. For human norovirus, commensal bacteria enhance B cell infection. The virus directly binds to these bacteria, indicating that this direct interaction is involved in the mechanism of infection enhancement. A variety of techniques can be used to quantify interactions between bacteria and viruses including scintillation counting of radiolabeled viruses and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Both methods require the use of live virus, which may need to be generated in the laboratory. Currently, none of the established in vitro culture systems available for human norovirus are robust enough to allow for generation of highly concentrated viral stocks. In lieu of live virus, virus-like particles (VLPs) have been used to characterize the interactions between norovirus and bacteria. Herein a flow cytometry method is described with uses virus specific antibodies to quantify VLP binding to gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. Inclusion of both bacteria only and isotype controls allowed for optimization of the assay to reduce background antibody binding and accurate quantification of VLP attachment to the bacteria tested. High VLP:bacterium ratios result in VLPs binding to large percentages of the bacterial population. However, when VLP quantities are decreased, the percent of bacteria bound also decreases. Ultimately, this method can be employed in future experiments elucidating the specific conditions and structural components that regulate norovirus:bacterial interactions.