Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Joseph K. -K. Li


This study was undertaken to investigate the structure-function relationship of VP6 protein of bluetongue virus (BTV) using molecular cloning techniques. VP6 is present in small quantities in BTV and its enzymatic activity and role in the viral replication cycle have not been studied. Since the availability of large amounts of purified VP6 is essential for the analysis of VP6, a BTV -11 S3 gene was cloned into a prokaryotic protein expression system. VP6 protein was expressed in large amounts and purified to near homogeneity. A series of C-terminal and internal deletion mutants of S3 gene was constructed and the truncated VP6 proteins were expressed and purified. The nucleic acid binding activities of the VP6 protein towards dsRNA, dsDNA, and ssRNA were confirmed and a new ssDNA binding activity was also determined. The binding activities of VP6 were concentration-dependent. The sites responsible for the binding activities were mapped using the truncated proteins and synthetic sequence-specific oligopeptides. Two domains of VP6 were responsible for the nucleic acid binding activities and have been mapped within 28 amino acids near the middle and 11 residues near the carboxyl terminus of VP6. The binding affinities of the middle domain of VP6 towards single-stranded and double-stranded nucleic acid were slightly different. Three synthetic oligopeptides corresponding to these domains exhibited concentration-dependent nucleic acid binding activities. Based on these results I suggest that synthetic oligopeptides might be useful to screen nucleic acid binding activities and domains responsible for these activities.

Expressed VP6 was used to produce polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies. Oligoclonal antibodies were raised by synthetic oligopeptides. Ten epitopes of VP6 were mapped and characterized. The amino acid sequences and sizes of six linear epitopes identified by oligoclonal antibodies were determined, and their locations were mapped and confirmed by deletion mutant analyses. These linear epitopes were surface-accessible except one. Based on these results I suggest that synthetic sequence-specific oligopeptides could mimic major components of antigenic determinants. Four epitopes recognized by four monoclonal antibodies were mapped and characterized. Three determinants were surface-accessible and three were conformational epitopes. These four determinants were distinct and different from the six linear epitopes determined using oligoclonal antibodies.

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