Recombinant vaccinia virus with tumour cell specificity may provide a versatile tool either for direct lysis of cancer cells or for the targeted transfer of genes encoding immunomodulatory molecules. We report the expression of a single chain antibody on the surface of extracellular enveloped vaccinia virus. The wild-type haemagglutinin, an envelope glycoprotein which is not required for viral infection and replication, was replaced by haemagglutinin fusion molecules carrying a single chain antibody directed against the tumour-associated antigen ErbB2. ErbB2 is an epidermal growth factor receptor-related tyrosine kinase overexpressed in a high percentage of human adenocarcinomas. Two fusion proteins carrying the single chain antibody at different NH2-terminal positions were expressed and exposed at the envelope of the corresponding recombinant viruses. The construct containing the antibody at the site of the immunoglobulin-like loop of the haemagglutinin was able to bind solubilized ErbB2. This is the first report of replacement of a vaccinia virus envelope protein by a specific recognition structure and represents a first step towards modifying the host cell tropism of the virus.


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