Baculovirus-mediated abnormal protein trafficking was studied in infected caterpillars by using heterologous proteins. The gene for human complement C1r was expressed in larvae of Mamestra brassicae by a recombinant Autographa californica nuclear polyhedrosis virus (AcMNPV) vector. By following the time-course of recombinant C1r distribution among various tissues, cell types and cell organelles, we concluded that the dominant site of recombinant protein synthesis was the fat body, although some production in the haemocytes and midgut was also observed. Only about 4% of the cells of the infected organs expressed recombinant C1r, which was then secreted into the haemolymph. The tracheal and integumental cuticle was rich in recombinant protein from the fourth day after infection although epidermal cells did not synthesize recombinant C1r. The morphological picture suggested that the accumulation was a consequence of a trans-epithelial transport. This transport process was checked by following the fate of the 49 kDa haemolymph protein and injected ovalbumin in AcMNPV-infected Mamestra brassicae and in Lymantria dispar nuclear polyhedrosis virus-infected Lymantria dispar larvae. Both proteins were able to pass the basal membrane of the epidermis and accumulated in the cuticle, while in control larvae neither was transported. The observed trans-epithelial transport points to the role of baculoviruses in directing recombinant, endo- and exo-genous proteins to cuticulated tissues. Based on these results we conclude that the permeability of basal membranes undergoes a characteristic change during the course of baculovirus infection.


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