Repeated baculovirus infections in cultured insect cells lead to the generation of defective interfering viruses (DIs), which accumulate at the expense of the intact helper virus and compromise heterologous protein expression. In particular, Autographa californica multicapsid nucleopolyhedovirus (AcMNPV) DIs are enriched in an origin of viral DNA replication (ori) not associated with the homologous regions (hrs). This non-hr ori is located within the coding sequence of the non-essential p94 gene. We investigated the effect of a deletion of the AcMNPV non-hr ori on the heterologous protein expression levels following serial passage in Sf21 insect cells. Using homologous ET recombination in E coli, deletions within the p94 gene were made in a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) containing the entire AcMNPV genome (bacmid). All bacmids were equipped with an expression cassette containing the green fluorescent protein gene and a gene encoding the classical swine fever virus E2 glycoprotein (CSFV-E2). For the parental (intact) bacmid only, a strong accumulation of DIs with reiterated non-hr oris was observed. This was not observed for the mutants, indicating that removal of the non-hr ori enhanced the genetic stability of the viral genome upon passaging. However, for all passaged viruses it was found that the entire BAC vector including the expression cassette was spontaneously deleted from the viral genome, leading to a rapid decrease in GFP and CSFV-E2 production. The rationale for the (intrinsic) genetic instability of the BAC vector in insect cells and the implications with respect to large-scale production of proteins with bacmid-derived baculoviruses are discussed.
- nuclear polyhedrosis-virus
- non-hr origin
- exigua multicapsid nucleopolyhedrovirus
- bacterial artificial chromosome
- defective genomes