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[Seminar] Proteins Required for Baculovirus Particle Formation: Relevance for the Development of a Baculovirion-Free Expression System

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Monique M. van Oers, Laboratory of Virology, Wagninngen University, the Netherlands

When 12 Mar, 2018 from
12:00 pm to 01:00 pm
Where Auditorium
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iNOVA4Health Seminar


Title: Proteins Required for Baculovirus Particle Formation: Relevance for the Development of a Baculovirion-Free Expression System

Speaker: Monique M. van Oers

Affiliation: Laboratory of Virology, Wagninngen University, the Netherlands

Host: Ana Sofia Coroadinha



In my talk I will first give an impression of the Laboratory of Virology of Wageningen University and give two examples of the work we are doing, related to behavioural manipulation by baculoviruses and arbovirus vaccine production. When using the conventional baculovirus expression system to produce vaccines or gene therapy vectors, baculovirus particles are abundantly co-produced. Extensive downstream processing may be required to remove these baculovirus particles, which might be difficult to achieve (e.g. for enveloped VLPS and which clearly affects product yield. Together with Généthon and iBET we aim is to develop a modified expression system that does not produce contaminating baculovirus particles. Our first strategy was to use a virus with a deletion of a gene essential for baculovirus nucleocapsid (NC) assembly and to complement that deletion through a transgenic cell line during seed production. So far, we have analyzed two viral genes in detail that could serve this objective, the vp80 and vp1054 genes. VP1054 is a functional homologue of the cellular PURα (purine-rich element binding) protein. GGN-repeat elements in baculovirus genomes are likely to be the targets of VP1054 and important for the encapsidation of viral DNA into progeny NCs. VP80 mediates the transport of NCs from the virogenic stroma to the nuclear periphery by interacting with nuclear F-actin. VP80 also binds DNA through a basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) domain and may play an auxiliary role in viral genome packaging. The data obtained permit the engineering of a baculovirus-expression system that produced foreign proteins at high levels without contaminating baculovirus particles. Proof of principle was obtained with a defective baculovirus genome that lacked vp80. The trans-complemented, defective baculovirus was capable to produce high levels of recombinant protein in transgenic Sf9 cells, whilst the co-production of baculovirus progeny virions was completely inhibited. However, the vp80 gene was quickly removed from the transgenic cell line. An inducible vp80-expression strategy was then adopted and tested at iBET, but there a quick gain of function was observed, resulting in a revertant viral phenotype, able to form virus particles again. Finally, I will explain our current strategies to develop a robust BacFree platform to be used for the production of viral vaccines and AAV vectors. These include RNAi and CRISPR/CAS based strategies as well as a method based on thermo-inducible promoters to drive the expression of genes essential for NC formation.


Short Biography:

Prof Dr Monique van Oers (PhD in 1994) is Chair holder of the Laboratory of Virology of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. The laboratory focuses on insect viruses, plant viruses and arboviruses. Her main scientific interest lies in fundamental and applied aspects of insect viruses and how viruses in general interact with insects, as host or vector. Current topics include functional genomics and evolution of large insect DNA viruses, and the molecular mechanisms behind baculovirus entry and packaging. An intriguing new research topic is the molecular mechanism behind virus-induced changes in insect behaviour. She has long term experience in the exploitation of fundamental data to optimize the baculovirus insect-cell expression system for the production of recombinant proteins, and more in particular for vaccine purposes. She currently supervises 15 PhD students and several of the PhD students trained in her laboratory are/were involved in baculovirus-based vaccines against (emerging) human, cattle and fish diseases. Her current interest here is to generate arbovirus vaccines and to develop a Bac-Free system, that uses baculovirus technology to produce recombinant proteins without contaminating baculovirus particles. She is co-inventor on several patents and recently submitted a proposal involving iBET as user to the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), Division Applied and Engineering Sciences, to further develop the Bac-Free technology. She coordinates an ITN-European joint doctoral proposal (revised submission early 2018) in insect pathology to support the upcoming industry of insect mass rearing. She is trustee of the Society for Invertebrate Pathology and chair of the Student Contests and Awards Committee of this organization. She has been an editor of the Journal of General Virology, and is currently Guest editor of MDPI Insects. She has published >100 papers in peer-reviewed journals and several book chapters. She recently published a review in a special issue of the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology on the diversity of large invertebrate DNA viruses.


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