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J Virol. 2006 May;80(10):5065-73.

The ORF3 protein of porcine circovirus type 2 is involved in viral pathogenesis in vivo.

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  • 1Animal Health Biotechnology Group, Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, The National University of Singapore, 1 Research Link, Singapore 117604.


Porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) is the primary causative agent of an emerging swine disease, postweaning multisystemic wasting syndrome. We previously showed that a novel identified protein, ORF3, was not essential for PCV2 replication in cultured PK15 cells and played a major role in virus-induced apoptosis. To evaluate the role of the ORF3 protein in viral pathogenesis in vivo, we inoculated 8-week-old BALB/c mice that have been developed for PCV2 replication with ORF3-deficient mutant PCV2 (mPCV2). By 42 days postinoculation, all of the mice inoculated with the mPCV2, as well as with wild-type PCV2 (wPCV2), had seroconverted to PCV2 capsid antibody, and the mutant induced levels of PCV2 antibodies that were higher than those of the wPCV2. The PCV2 genomic copy numbers in serum were significantly higher (P<0.05) in the wPCV2-inoculated mice than in mice inoculated with the mPCV2. Also, the wPCV2 caused microscopic lesions characterized by lymphocyte depletion with histiocytic infiltration of lymphoid organs, but the mutant virus failed to induce any obvious pathological lesions. In situ hybridization and immunohistochemical analyses also showed that larger amounts of viral DNA and antigens were detected in the lymph nodes of the wPCV2-inoculated than mPCV2-inoculated mice. Furthermore, animals of the wPCV2-inoculated group showed significant downshifts of CD8(+) T-cell subsets of peripheral blood lymphocytes compared to the control mice (P<0.05) at various time points postinoculation. Also, the proportions of the CD4(+) and CD4(+) CD8(+) cells were significantly reduced in wPCV2-inoculated mice at some time points postinoculation. In contrast, there are some reductions in the proportions of these subsets in the mutant virus-inoculated mice, but the proportions do not decrease significantly. Taken together, these results demonstrate that the ORF3 protein is also dispensable for viral replication in vivo and that it plays an important role in viral pathogenesis.

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