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Identification Of A Novel Linear B-Cell Epitope On The Nucleocapsid Protein Of Porcine Deltacoronavirus

Jiayu Fu, Rui Chen, Jingfei Hu, Huan Qu, Yujia Zhao, Sanjie Cao, Xintian Wen, Yiping Wen, Rui Wu, Qin Zhao, Xiaoping Ma, Xiaobo Huang

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Porcine deltacoronavirus (PDCoV), first identified in 2012, is a swine enteropathogen now found in many countries. The nucleocapsid (N) protein, a core component of PDCoV, is essential for virus replication and is a significant candidate in the development of diagnostics for PDCoV. In this study, monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) were generated and tested for reactivity with three truncations of the full protein (N1, N2, N3) that contained partial overlaps; of the five monoclonals chosen tested, each reacted with only the N3 truncation. The antibody designated 4E88 had highest binding affinity with the N protein and was chosen for in-depth examination. The 4E88 epitope was located to amino acids 308-AKPKQQKKPKK-318 by testing the 4E88 monoclonal for reactivity with a series of N3 truncations, then the minimal epitope, 309-KPKQQKKPK-317 (designated EP-4E88), was pinpointed by testing the 4E88 monoclonal for reactivity with a series of synthetic peptides of this region. Homology analysis showed that the EP-4E88 sequence is highly conserved among PDCoV strains, and also shares high similarity with sparrow coronavirus (HKU17), Asian leopard cat coronavirus (ALCCoV), quail coronavirus (UAE-HKU30), and sparrow deltacoronavirus (SpDCoV). Of note, the PDCoV EP-4E88 sequence shared very low similarity (<22.2%) with other porcine coronaviruses (PEDV, TGEV, PRCV, SADS-CoV, PHEV), demonstrating that it is an epitope that can be used for distinguishing PDCoV and other porcine coronavirus. 3D structural analysis revealed that amino acids of EP-4E88 were in close proximity and may be exposed on the surface of the N protein.