A recombinant baculovirus expressing the nucleocapsid gene (NP) of Newcastle disease virus (NDV), a member of the genus Rubulavirus, has been generated and shown to express the native protein to high levels in insect cells. In contrast to the NP protein of the rubulavirus human parainfluenza virus 2, the NDV protein has been demonstrated by electron microscopy and caesium chloride gradient analysis to be capable of self-assembly in vivo to form nucleocapsid-like structures in the absence of other NDV proteins. These structures, which contained RNA that was resistant to micrococcal nuclease digestion, were also observed when the protein was expressed in E. coli, a phenomenon which was not inhibited by the presence of a 40 amino acid fusion region at the amino terminus of the protein. Further, the formation of these structures was inhibited by the co-expression of the phosphoprotein (P). Therefore, we conclude that the P protein acts as a chaperone, preventing uncontrolled encapsidation of non-viral RNA by NP protein.


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