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J Virol. 1994 Oct;68(10):6619-25.

A cysteine protease encoded by the baculovirus Bombyx mori nuclear polyhedrosis virus.

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Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis 95616.


Sequence analysis of the BamHI F fragment of the genome of Bombyx mori nuclear polyhedrosis virus (BmNPV) revealed an open reading frame whose deduced amino acid sequence had homology to those of cysteine proteases of the papain superfamily. The putative cysteine protease sequence (BmNPV-CP) was 323 amino acids long and showed 35% identity to a cysteine proteinase precursor from Trypanosoma brucei. Of 36 residues conserved among cathepsins B, H, L, and S and papain, 31 were identical in BmNPV-CP. In order to determine the activity and function of the putative cysteine protease, a BmNPV mutant (BmCysPD) was constructed by homologous recombination of the protease gene with a beta-galactosidase gene cassette. BmCysPD-infected BmN cell extracts were significantly reduced in acid protease activity compared with wild-type virus-infected cell extracts. The cysteine protease inhibitor E-64 [trans-epoxysuccinylleucylamido-(4-guanidino)butane] inhibited wild-type virus-expressed protease activity. Deletion of the cysteine protease gene had no significant effect on viral growth or polyhedron production in BmN cells, indicating that the cysteine protease was not essential for viral replication in vitro. However, B. mori larvae infected with BmCysPD showed symptoms different from those of wild-type BmNPV-infected larvae, e.g., less degradation of the body, including fat body cells, white body surface color due presumably to undegraded epidermal cells, and an increase in the number of polyhedra released into the hemolymph. This is the first report of (i) a virus-encoded protease with activity on general substrates and (ii) evidence that a virus-encoded protease may play a role in degradation of infected larvae to facilitate horizontal transmission of the virus.

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