In nature, nuclear polyhedrosis viruses (NPV) are transmitted when susceptible insect larvae ingest viral occlusion bodies (OB). These dissociate in the alkaline environment of the midgut and release encapsulated virions (PDV) which bind to midgut epithelial cells and initiate an infection. A previous study showed that expression of the Autographa californica NPV (AcMNPV) p74 gene during replication is essential for the production of infectious OB. A set of p74 deletion and overexpression recombinants was used for the production and screening of monoclonal antibodies, and for an investigation of gross cytopathology and localization of p74. No differences in virus structure or morphogenesis were observed in infected cells when the p74 gene of AcMNPV was deleted, even though the infectivity of OB harvested from the cells was abolished when they were fed to Trichoplusia ni larvae. Mutant OB released virus particles and degraded insect peritrophic membrane as in infections with wild-type virus; in addition, virions purified from mutant OB were infectious when injected into the haemocoel of T. ni larvae. Western blot analysis confirmed that p74 was associated with the PDV and could not be detected in the budded form virion phenotype. The polypeptide was readily degraded by treatment of purified PDV with proteinase K, in the presence and absence of detergent, and could be extracted from PDV by a non-ionic detergent treatment. The data are consistent with p74 being a structural polypeptide of the PDV phenotype, most probably as a component associated with the outside surface of the virion envelope. Its presence is shown to be essential for primary infection of midgut cells of insect larvae.


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