Expression of H5N1 influenza virus hemagglutinin protein fused with protein transduction domain in an alphavirus replicon system.
ABSTRACT Alphavirus replicons, in which structural protein genes are replaced by heterologous genes, express high levels of the heterologous proteins. On the basis of the potencies of replicons to self-replicate and express foreign proteins and the remarkable intercellular transport property of VP22, a novel alphavirus Semliki Forest virus (SFV) replicon system of VP22 fused with a model antigen, hemagglutinin (HA), of the human-avian H5N1 influenza virus, was explored in this study. Further, replicon particles expressing HA, VP22, and enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) individually were used as controls. By flow cytometry based on the analysis of transfection efficiency, SFV-EGFP replicon particle titer was 1.13 x 10(7)transducing units (TU)/ml. The titers of SFV-HA, SFV-VP22 and SFV-VP22-HA replicon particles, which were titrated by using SFV-EGFP replicon particles, were 1.42 x 10(7), 3.23 x 10(7), and 1.01 x 10(7)TU/ml, respectively. HA and VP22-HA expression was observed in SFV-HA- and SFV-VP22-HA-transfected BHK-21 cells, respectively. Immunofluorescence staining revealed that the fluorescence intensity in the SFV-VP22-HA-transfected BHK-21 cells was more than that in the SFV-HA-transfected BHK-21 cells. Both SFV-VP22-HA and SFV-HA replicon particles presented a promising approach for developing vaccines against human-avian influenza. VP22-HA fusion protein with similar trafficking properties may also enhance vaccine potency.