Porcine circovirus 2 (PCV2), a single-stranded DNA virus associated with post-weaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome of swine, has two potential open reading frames, ORF1 and ORF2, greater than 600 nucleotides in length. ORF1 is predicted to encode a replication-associated protein (Rep) essential for replication of viral DNA, while ORF2 contains a conserved basic amino acid sequence at the N terminus resembling that of the major structural protein of chicken anaemia virus. Thus far, the structural protein(s) of PCV2 have not been identified. In this study, a viral structural protein of 30 kDa was identified in purified PCV2 particles. ORF2 of PCV2 was cloned into a baculovirus expression vector and the gene product was expressed in insect cells. The expressed ORF2 gene product had a molecular mass of 30 kDa, similar to that detected in purified virus particles. The recombinant ORF2 protein self-assembled to form capsid-like particles when viewed by electron microscopy. Antibodies against the ORF2 protein were detected in samples of sera obtained from pigs as early as 3 weeks after experimental infection with PCV2. These results show that the major structural protein of PCV2 is encoded by ORF2 and has a molecular mass of 30 kDa.
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