Background: Many cellular multi-protein complexes are naturally present in cells at low abundance. Baculovirus expression offers one approach to produce milligram quantities of correctly folded and processed eukaryotic protein complexes. However, current strategies suffer from the need to produce large transfer vectors, and the use of repeated promoter sequences in baculovirus, which itself produces proteins that promote homologous recombination. One possible solution to these problems is to construct baculovirus genomes that express each protein in a complex from a separate locus within the viral DNA. However current methods for selecting such recombinant genomes are too inefficient to routinely modify the virus in this way. Results: This paper reports a method which combines the lambda red and bacteriophage P1 Cre-recombinase systems to efficiently generate baculoviruses in which protein complexes are expressed from multiple, single-locus insertions of foreign genes. This method is based on an 88 fold improvement in the selection of recombinant viruses generated by red recombination techniques through use of a bipartite selection cassette. Using this system, seven new genetic loci were identified in the AcMNPV genome suitable for the high level expression of recombinant proteins. These loci were used to allow the recovery two recombinant virus-like particles with potential biotechnological applications (influenza A virus HA/M1 particles and bluetongue virus VP2/VP3/VP5/VP7 particles) and the mammalian chaperone and cancer drug target CCT (16 subunits formed from 8 proteins). Conclusion: 1. Use of bipartite selections can significantly improve selection of modified bacterial artificial chromosomes carrying baculovirus DNA. Furthermore this approach is sufficiently robust to allow routine modification of the virus genome. 2. In addition to the commonly used p10 and polyhedrin loci, the ctx, egt, 39k, orf51, gp37, iap2 and odv-e56 loci in AcMNPV are all suitable for the high level expression of heterologous genes. 3. Two protein, four protein and eight protein complexes including virus-like particles and cellular chaperone complexes can be produced using the new approach.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, UK. The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge the gift of cDNA for influenza A SC35M and polyclonal antibody from H.D. Klenk (University of Marburg), the E. coli strain EL350 from C.T. Dolphin (King's College, London), and the bacmid BAC10:KO1629 from I.M. Jones (University of Reading).