The host-protective antigen VP2 of a variant strain of infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV) which emerged from a vaccinated flock and is able to circumvent vaccination with classic type I strains of IBDV, was cloned and its nucleotide sequence determined. Virus-neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) raised against the Australian 002-73 strain of IBDV did not react or reacted only very weakly with the expression product of the variant virus. The deduced amino acid sequence of VP2 from the variant strain differed in 17 residues from that of the Australian strain and in eight positions from a consensus sequence compiled from six type I strains of IBDV. All the amino acid changes mapped within the central, variable region of VP2, which forms the conformational epitope recognized by virus-neutralizing MAbs. Changes in the two hydrophilic regions at either end of this fragment were unique to the variant virus and were crucial for its ability to escape the virus-neutralizing antibodies induced by vaccination with a standard type I vaccine.


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