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Baculovirus Multigene Expression Vectors And Their Use For Understanding The Assembly Process Of Architecturally Complex Virus Particles.

P. Roy, M. Mikhailov, D. H. Bishop
Published 1997 · Biology, Medicine

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The baculovirus expression vector is a eukaryotic DNA viral vector for the cloning and expression of foreign genes in cultured lepidopteran insect cells and insects. It has become an important tool for the large-scale production of recombinant proteins for a variety of applications including the structure-function analysis of genes and their gene products. We have developed a number of baculovirus multigene expression vectors and utilized these to understand the assembly process of multicomponent capsid structures of large viruses such as bluetongue virus (BTV), a member of the Orbivirus genus within the family Reoviridae. BTV is some 810 A in diameter and comprised of two protein shells containing four major proteins, VP2, VP5, VP7 and VP3, surrounding a genome of ten double-stranded RNA segments and three minor proteins (VP2, VP4 and VP6). BTV is the etiological agent of a sheep disease that is sometimes fatal in certain parts of the world (e.g., Africa, Asia, and the Americas). Using baculovirus multigene vectors, we have co-expressed various combinations of BTV genes in insect cells and produced structures that mimic the various stages of BTV assembly. For example, co-expressed VP3 and VP7 form BTV core-like particles, while co-expressed VP2, VP5, VP7 and VP3 form BTV virus-like particles. Using deletion, point and domain switching analyses of each protein, we have been able to identify certain sequences in the VP7 and VP3 proteins that are essential for the assembly of core-like particles. These expression and biochemical studies have been complemented by collaboration studies using cryo-electron microscopy and image processing analyses to provide the three-dimensional structure of the expressed particles. In addition and with other associates, we have used X-ray crystallography of VP7 to deduce its atomic structure. Extensive studies on the immune responses elicited by these self-assembled particles, and chimeric derivatives involving various foreign antigens, have been carried out. Finally, using as little as 10 microg of the self-assembled virus-like particles, we have shown that they can confer long-lasting protection in sheep against BTV.
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