VP4 : a putative protease encoded by infectious bursal disease virus.
Scholfield, Nicola Gillian.
MetadataShow full item record
Infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV) causes an acute and highly contagious disease affecting young chickens, which is responsible for significant losses in the poultry industry world-wide. The virus specifically infects and destroys B-cell precursors within the bursa of Fabricius, an avian lymphoid organ, leading to immunosuppression. IBDV has a bi-segmented, double-stranded RNA genome. The larger segment encodes a 110-kDa precursor polyprotein, designated NH₂-VPX-VP4-VP3-COOH, in a single open reading frame. The autocatalytic processing of this precursor into mature proteins is a critical step in viral replication and VP4 is the putative protease responsible for this cleavage. This study concerns the development of a strategy to clone and express recombinant VP4 and describes the use of VP4 as a marker for rapid and effective detection of IBDV. VP4 cDNA was produced and amplified by optimisation of a reverse transcription coupled to the polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), providing a clear and sensitive assay. Anti-peptide antibodies were raised against a selected peptide from VP4 and were used to probe homogenates of infected bursae for the native protein to assess their potential for immunological detection. These antibody-related results are promising though inconclusive, due to the complex nature of the assayed sample. Amplified VP4 cDNA from KwaZulu-Natal strains of IBDV isolated from 1989 to 1997 was also examined by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis to determine the relatedness of local IBDV to global strains. All KwaZulu-Natal samples produced identical patterns, which were most similar to one of ten international strains examined, namely, the British strain UK661. Samples infected with IBDV were also probed for VP4 activity. Double basic amino acid cleavage sites have been proposed for the putative protease and infected samples were assayed for activity against the fluorogenic peptide Cbz-Arg-Arg-AMC. Demonstrably higher activity was found in infected versus uninfected samples, although the origin of this activity is unclear. The findings in this study suggest that VP4 warrants further attention, both as a marker for infectious bursal disease, and as a novel viral protease.