Attempts were made to linearize the DNA of Choristoneura fumiferana (Cf) multicapsid nucleopolyhedrovirus (MNPV), in order to improve the efficiency of generation of recombinant viruses after transfection. A unique site for the restriction enzyme Sse83871 was found in ORF p48. The requirement for this ORF during virus replication was investigated by molecular analyses including sequencing, transcriptional analysis and inactivation by insertion of marker genes. Sequence analysis showed that ORF p48 consists of 1233 nucleotides encoding a potential protein of 47.88 kDa. The proteins encoded by ORF p48 from CfMNPV and Orgyia pseudotsugata MNPV contain 411 amino acids while that from CfDEFNPV (a virus that is defective for infection by the per os route) is slightly smaller, at 408 amino acids. Transcriptional and primer extension analyses showed that the mRNA is initiated from a typical baculovirus late gene ATAAG motif. The mRNA was detected at 24 h post-infection (p.i.), reached maximum levels at 48 h p.i. and declined by 96 h p.i., which confirmed the late property of the gene. Inactivation of the gene was attempted by inserting a cassette containing either the gene encoding beta-galactosidase or that encoding green fluorescent protein. Blue or fluorescent green plaques of infected cells were observed after transfection. Attempts to generate a plaque-purified virus were not successful. Restriction enzyme analysis showed that the marker genes were inserted randomly at positions other than the p48 locus. This indicated that the gene may be needed for virus replication. The gene is relatively well conserved among baculoviruses but its function remains unclear.


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