PCR analysis of the genomes of 18 different African swine fever virus (ASFV) isolates showed that the I14L open reading frame (ORF) was present as either a long form or short form in all of the isolates. Sequencing of the ORF from eight isolates confirmed that both forms of the ORF were well conserved. Antisera raised against the I14L protein identified the long form of the protein as a 21 kDa protein expressed late during ASFV infection. Immunofluorescent analysis of transiently expressed haemagglutinin-tagged forms of the I14L protein showed that the long form of the protein localized predominantly to the nucleus and within the nucleoli. In contrast, although the short form of the protein was also present predominantly in the nucleus, it did not localize to the nucleoli. Deletion of the N-terminal 14 amino acids from the long form of the I14L protein, which includes a high proportion of basic Arg/Lys residues, abolished the specific nucleolar localization of the protein, although the protein was still present in the nucleus. Addition of this 14 amino acid sequence to beta-galactosidase or replacement of the N-terminal 14 amino acids of the I14L short form with those from the long form directed both of these modified proteins to the nucleolus. This indicates that this 14 amino acid sequence contains all the signals required for nucleolar localization.


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