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FEBS Lett. 2004 Oct 8;576(1-2):174-8.

Efficient assembly and release of SARS coronavirus-like particles by a heterologous expression system.

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Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK.


Virus-like particles (VLPs) produced by recombinant expression of the major viral structural proteins could be an attractive method for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) control. In this study, using the baculovirus system, we generated recombinant viruses that expressed S, E, M and N structural proteins of SARS-CoV either individually or simultaneously. The expression level, size and authenticity of each recombinant SARS-CoV protein were determined. In addition, immunofluorescence and FACS analysis confirmed the cell surface expression of the S protein. Co-infections of insect cells with two recombinant viruses demonstrated that M and E could assemble readily to form smooth surfaced VLPs. On the other hand, simultaneous high level expression of S, E and M by a single recombinant virus allowed the very efficient assembly and release of VLPs. These data demonstrate that the VLPs are morphological mimics of virion particles. The high level expression of VLPs with correct S protein conformation by a single recombinant baculovirus offers a potential candidate vaccine for SARS.

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