Evidence of a humoral immune response against the prokaryotic expressed N-terminal autoprotease (Npro) protein of bovine viral diarrhoea virus
Bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) is an economically important pathogen of cattle and sheep belonging to the genus Pestivirus of the family Flaviviridae. Although the BVDV non-structural N-terminal protease (Npro) acts as an interferon antagonist and subverts the host innate immunity, little is known about its immunogenicity. Hence, we expressed a recombinant BVDV Npro–His fusion protein (28 kDa) in E. coli and determined the humoral immune response generated by it in rabbits. The antigenicity of the Npro protein was confirmed by western blot using anti-BVDV hyperimmune cattle, sheep and goat serum, and anti-Npro rabbit serum. When rabbits were immunized with the Npro protein, a humoral immune response was evident by 4 weeks and persisted till 10 weeks post immunization as detected by ELISA and western blot. Despite Npro-specific antibodies remaining undetectable in 80 serum samples from BVDV-infected sheep and goats, BVDV hyperimmune sera along with some of the field cattle, sheep and goat sera with high BVDV neutralizing antibody titres were found positive for Npro antibodies. Our results provide evidence that despite the low immunogenicity of the BVDV Npro protein, a humoral immune response is induced in cattle, sheep and goats only with repeated BVDV exposure.
Volume 45, 2020
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