Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) belongs to the recently recognized Arteriviridae family within the genus Arterivirus , order Nidovirales , which also includes equine arteritis virus (EAV), lactate dehydrogenase-elevating virus (LDV), and simian hemorrhagic fever virus (SHFV). Mature viral particles are composed of an envelope 50–72 nm in diameter, with an isometric core about 20–30 nm enclosing a linear positive-stranded RNA genome of approximately 15 kb. The virions are assembled by the budding of preformed nucleocapsids into the lumen of the smooth endoplasmic reticulum and/or Golgi apparatus. The mature virions are then released by exocytosis. The viral genome contains eight open reading frames (ORFs) which are transcribed in cells as a nested set of subgenomic mRNAs. The ORF1a and ORF1b situated at the 5′end of the genome represent nearly 75% of the viral genome and code for proteins with apparent replicase and polymerase activities. The major structural proteins consist of a 25 kDa envelope glycoprotein (GP 5 ), an 18–19 kDa unglycosylated membrane protein (M), and a 15 kDa nucleocapsid (N) protein, encoded by ORFs 5, 6 and 7, respectively. The N protein is the more abundant protein of the virion and is highly antigenic, which therefore makes it a suitable candidate for the detection of virus-specific antibodies and diagnosis of the disease. Four to five domains of antigenic importance have been identified for the N protein, a common conformational antigenic site for European and North American strains being localized in the central region of the protein. In cells and virions, both M and GP 5 occur in heterodimeric complexes linked by disulfide bonds. The expression products of ORFs 2 and 4 are also incorporated into virus particles as additional minor membrane-associated glycoproteins designated as GP 2 and GP 4 , with M r of 29 and 31 kDa, respectively. The structural nature of the ORF3 product, a highly glycosylated protein with an apparent M r of 42 kDa, is still being debated, in view of the apparently conflicting data on its presence in virus particles. Nonetheless, the GP 3 of North American and European strains has been shown to be antigenic, providing protection for piglets against PRRSV infection in the absence of a noticeable neutralizing humoral response. Pigs exposed to the native form of GP 5 by means of DNA immunization develop specific neutralizing and protecting antibodies. The GP 5 is involved in antigenic variability, apoptosis, and possibly antibody-dependent enhancement phenomena. The GP 4 also possesses antigenic determinants that trigger the immune system to produce neutralizing antibodies. Each of the PRRSV structural proteins carries common and type-specific antigenic determinants that permit the ability to differentiate between European and North American strains. The potential use of the PRRSV structural proteins in subunit recombinant-type vaccines is also discussed.
Archives of Virology – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 1, 2000
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