The capsid protein of a French isolate of the European brown hare syndrome virus (EBHSV) was expressed in the baculovirus system. The recombinant EBHSV (rEBHSV) capsid protein was able to self-assemble into virus-like particles (VLPs). The VLPs were indistinguishable from the infectious EBHSV and displayed morphological characteristics similar to those we have described for the VLPs resulting from the expression of the capsid protein of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), a closely related calicivirus. Cross-protection experiments showed that vaccination with rEBHSV particles did not protect rabbits against an RHDV challenge. A set of monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) was raised against rEBHSV capsid protein and used together with anti-RHDV and anti-EBHSV MAbs produced against native viruses to study the antigenic relationships between the two caliciviruses. All six anti-EBHSV MAbs delineated discontinuous epitopes; two of them reacted with specific surface epitopes and the remaining four reacted with internal epitopes which were also present in rRHDV. All anti-RHDV MAbs were monospecific; three reacted with surface linear epitope(s), two reacted with internal linear epitope(s) and one with a surface conformational epitope. On the basis of all these results, a classification of RHDV and EBHSV as two serotypes of a single serogroup is proposed.


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