The hepatitis delta antigen (HDAg) is a multifunctional protein. It forms the core-like structure of the hepatitis delta virus (HDV) but also enhances replication of HDV in the nucleus of the hepatocyte. A cDNA fragment encoding HDAg was inserted adjacent to the polyhedrin promoter of nuclear polyhedrosis virus present in the baculovirus transfer vector pVL941. After transfection of (Sf9) cells a recombinant baculovirus Acδ1 was isolated and purified using filter hybridization techniques. Sf9 cells infected with Acδ1 express the HDAg as a non-fused, non-glycosylated protein with an abundance of up to 25% of the total cellular protein mass. Immunoblot analysis using a human polyclonal anti-HD conjugate identified a 22K and a 24K protein in the nucleus of Acδ1-infected Sf9 cells. Electron microscopic studies using immunogold labelling showed that the recombinant HDAg (recHDAg) was associated with the hetero-chromatin of the Sf9 cells. The recHDAg produced by Sf9 cells elicited anti-HD antibodies in chimpanzees when injected intramuscularly.


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