Synthesis of biologically active influenza virus hemagglutinin in insect larvae

K. Kuroda, A. Groner, K. Frese, D. Drenckhahn, C. Hauser, R. Rott, W. Doerfler, H. D. Klenk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The hemagglutinin of influenza (fowl plague) virus was expressed in larvae of Heliothis virescens by using recombinant Autographa californica nuclear polyhedrosis virus (AcNPV) as a vector. Animals were infected with the recombinant virus either by parenteral injection or by feeding. For oral uptake, recombinant virus occluded in polyhedra obtained from cultured Spodoptera frugiperda cells after coinfection with authentic AcNPV was used. Immunohistological analyses of infected animals revealed that the hemagglutinin was expressed only in those tissue that are also permissive for the replication of authentic AcNPV. These tissues included hypodermis, fat body, and tracheal matrix. After oral infection, hemagglutinin was also detected in individual gut cells. The amount of hemagglutinin synthesized in larvae after parenteral infection was 0.3% of the total protein, compared with 5% obtained in cultured insect cells. The hemagglutinin was transported to the cell surface and expressed in polarized cells only at the apical plasma membrane. It was processed by posttranslational proteolysis into the cleavage products HA1 and HA2. Oligosaccharides were attached by N-glycosidic linkages and were smaller than those found on hemagglutinin obtained from vertebrate cells. Hemagglutinin from larvae expressed receptor binding and cell fusion activities, but quantitation of the hemolytic capacity revealed that it was only about half as active as hemagglutinin from vertebrate or insect cell cultures. Chickens immunized with larval tissues containing hemagglutinin were protected from infection with fowl plague virus. These observations demonstrate that live insects are able to produce a recombinant membrane protein of vertebrate origin in biologically active form.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1677-1685
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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