A vaccinia virus-bacteriophage T7 RNA polymerase hybrid transient expression vector has been developed for complementation analysis of late gene functions in vaccinia virus. The conditionally defective virus ts21 was modified to express the bacteriophage T7 RNA polymerase. The derived virus, vtsT7, was conditionally defective in viral late gene expression but produced high levels of a target protein under the control of a T7 promoter at non-permissive temperatures. The level of beta-galactosidase expression under the control of a T7 promoter was slightly lower in vtsT7 infections than those with the prototypical T7 RNA polymerase vector vTF7.3. However, the levels of expression for the human immunodeficiency virus envelope gene, a protein which undergoes post-translational modification, was slightly higher in vtsT7 infections, suggesting that some proteins may be expressed better in the absence of vaccinia virus late gene expression. Infections using vtsT7 at a low m.o.i. at 39 degrees C resulted in the accumulation of high molecular mass, non-linear replicative intermediates of vaccinia virus DNA replication and high levels of expression of a transfected gene proximal to a T7 promoter. The virus vtsT7 provides a means for the analysis of potential trans-acting factors participating in vaccinia virus late processes such as resolution of DNA replicative intermediates.


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