The coding sequences of four overlapping polypeptides starting at four different in-frame AUG codons and co-terminating at the stop codon of the gene of densovirus (JcDNV) were inserted under the control of the p10 promoter of nucleopolyhedrovirus (AcMNPV) to generate AcMNPV-VP1 (four polypeptides), AcMNPV-VP2 (three polypeptides), AcMNPV-VP3 (two polypeptides), and AcMNPV-VP4 (one polypeptide) recombinant viruses. In all cases, infection of cells (Sf9) by each of the four recombinant viruses resulted in the production of virus-like particles (VLPs) 22–25 nm in diameter. The VLPs produced by the three recombinants AcMNPV-VP2, AcMNPV-VP3 and AcMNPV-VP4 were abundant and contained three, two and one polypeptides, respectively. VP4, the shortest polypeptide, thus appears to be sufficient for assembly of VLPs morphologically similar to those formed with two to four polypeptides. The ratio of VPs did not appear to be critical for assembly of the particles. The polypeptide starting at the first AUG immediately downstream from the p10 promoter was always the most abundantly expressed in infected cells, regardless of the construct. In contrast, plaque-purified AcMNPV-VP1 recombinants were unstable and produced less than one-twentieth of the VLPs produced by the others. All VP transcripts started at the TAAG late motif of the p10 promoter and had a poly(A) tail 14 nt downstream of a poly(A) addition signal located 98 nucleotides downstream of the common stop codon. No significant transcription initiation inside the sequence of AcMNPV-VP2, AcMNPV-VP3 and AcMNPV-PV4 was observed.


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