A 13-amino-acid peptide derived from the V3 loop of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) glycoprotein 120 (gp120) was attached as a C-terminal gene fusion to the coat protein of tomato bushy stunt virus (TBSV). The architecture of this plant virus permitted external display of the foreign sequence 180 times on the surface of the chimaeric virus particle. The chimaera replicated to a level similar to wild-type TBSV and the foreign sequence was retained through six sequential passages in plants. The HIV epitope was detected on the surface of the virus capsid by a V3-specific monoclonal antibody and by human sera from HIV-1-positive patients, demonstrating the potential of using plant-derived chimaeric particles for diagnostic purposes. Chimaeric virus also induced a specific immune response to the foreign HIV epitope when injected into NMRI mice.


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