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J Virol. 2003 Oct;77(20):11232-43.

Immunogenicity and pathogenicity of chimeric infectious DNA clones of pathogenic porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) and nonpathogenic PCV1 in weanling pigs.

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  • 1Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061-0342, USA.


Porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) is the primary causative agent of postweaning multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS), whereas the ubiquitous porcine circovirus type 1 (PCV1) is nonpathogenic for pigs. We report here the construction and characterization of two chimeric infectious DNA clones of PCV1 and PCV2. The chimeric PCV1-2 clone contains the PCV2 capsid gene cloned in the backbone of the nonpathogenic PCV1 genome. A reciprocal chimeric PCV2-1 DNA clone was also constructed by replacing the PCV2 capsid gene with that of PCV1 in the backbone of the PCV2 genome. The PCV1, PCV2, and chimeric PCV1-2 and PCV2-1 DNA clones were all shown to be infectious in PK-15 cells, and their growth characteristics in vitro were determined and compared. To evaluate the immunogenicity and pathogenicity of the chimeric infectious DNA clones, 40 specific-pathogen-free (SPF) pigs were randomly assigned into five groups of eight pigs each. Group 1 pigs received phosphate-buffered saline as the negative control. Group 2 pigs were each injected in the superficial inguinal lymph nodes with 200 micro g of the PCV1 infectious DNA clone. Group 3 pigs were each similarly injected with 200 micro g of the PCV2 infectious DNA clone, group 4 pigs were each injected with 200 micro g of the chimeric PCV1-2 infectious DNA clone, and group 5 pigs were each injected with 200 micro g of the reciprocal chimeric PCV2-1 infectious DNA clone. As expected, seroconversion to antibodies to the PCV2 capsid antigen was detected in group 3 and group 4 pigs. Group 2 and 5 pigs all seroconverted to PCV1 antibody. Gross and microscopic lesions in various tissues of animals inoculated with the PCV2 infectious DNA clone were significantly more severe than those found in pigs inoculated with PCV1, chimeric PCV1-2, and reciprocal chimeric PCV2-1 infectious DNA clones. These data indicated that the chimeric PCV1-2 virus with the immunogenic ORF2 capsid gene of pathogenic PCV2 cloned into the nonpathogenic PCV1 genomic backbone induces a specific antibody response to the pathogenic PCV2 capsid antigen but is attenuated in pigs. Future studies are warranted to evaluate the usefulness of the chimeric PCV1-2 infectious DNA clone as a genetically engineered live-attenuated vaccine against PCV2 infection and PMWS.

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