A putative DNA helicase gene from the granulovirus of Trichoplusia ni (TnGV) was cloned, sequenced, and compared with the corresponding gene of several multinucleocapsid nucleopolyhedroviruses (MNPVs) including those from Autographa californica (AcMNPV), Orgyia pseudotsugata (OpMNPV), Bombyx mori (BmNPV), and Spodoptera exigua (SeMNPV). The TnGV helicase gene (p137) encoded a helicase of 1158 amino acids with a predicted mass of 137 kDa. Comparison of p137 with AcMNPV p143 revealed 44.5% identity at the nucleotide level, and, respectively, 28.6% identity and 53.0% similarity at the amino acid level. Similar levels of identity and similarity were obtained when TnGV p137 was compared with the corresponding helicase genes of BmNPV, OpMNPV and SeMNPV. Using an antisense probe made from an internal 1.6 kb region of p137, a major transcript of approximately 3600 nt was detected by Northern blot analysis in fat body tissue from TnGV-infected larvae of T. ni. As both TnGV and AcMNPV replicate efficiently in larvae of T. ni, these results demonstrate that baculovirus putative DNA helicases which have diverged markedly can function efficiently in the same host. Three genes flanking TnGV p137, designated ORF68, ORF219 and ORF157, corresponded in order and orientation with AcMNPV ORFs 93, 94 and 96. However, the amino acid similarity between corresponding genes ranged from only 50.4 to 62.5%, providing further evidence that related baculovirus proteins which have diverged markedly can function efficiently in the same host.


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