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Arch Virol. 1994;136(1-2):9-18.

Subunit interaction in B19 parvovirus empty capsids.

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Cellular Hematology Branch, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Bethesda, Maryland.


B19 parvovirus is a small single-stranded DNA virus with a genome that encodes only two structural proteins, designated VP1 and VP2. 60 copies of the structural proteins assemble into the viral capsid, with approximately 95% VP2 and 5% VP1. Recombinant empty capsids composed of VP2 alone or of VP2 and VP1 self-assemble into particles that are morphologically indistinguishable from full virions. Empty capsids containing both VP2 and VP1 elicit a strong neutralizing antibody response when used to immunize rabbits. Capsids containing only VP2 are similarly antigenic but elicit only weak neutralizing activity. We performed fine structure epitope mapping by measuring the reactivity of antisera raised against capsids composed of VP2 and VP1 or VP2 alone against 85 overlapping peptides spanning the sequence of the two structural proteins. A profile of the antigenic difference between empty capsids with and without VP1 was produced from the resulting data. This profile divided the sequence of the structural proteins into four regions that correlated well with expected viral structures. Thus, the addition of a small number of VP1 residues altered the antigenicity of the entire capsid. The major area of enhanced antigenicity is homologous to the spike of canine parvovirus, an area known to contain both neutralizing and host-range determinants. Our data are consistent with a model in which the unique region of VP1 is necessary for the virus to assume its mature capsid conformation.

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