Porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) is a primary causative agent of postweaningmultisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS), which has a significant economic impact on the swine industry. The capsid protein (Cap) encoded by ORF2 of the viral genome has been used effectively as a vaccine against PCV2 infection. The Cap protein can spontaneously assemble into virus-like particles (VLPs) that are safe and highly immunogenic for vaccine applications. Several expression systems, including bacteria, yeast and insect cells, have been utilized to produce PCV2 VLPs. However, in some cases, the recombinant Cap (rCap) proteins produced in bacteria and yeast do not assemble spontaneously. In this study, we expressed rCap protein using a silkworm–baculovirus expression vector system (silkworm–BEVS) for mass production of PCV2 VLPs and established a simple three-step protocol for its purification from pupae: extraction by detergent, ammonium sulfate precipitation and anion exchange column chromatography. Size-exclusion chromatography (SEC) analysis and transmission electron microscope (TEM) observation showed that purified rCap proteins formed VLPs with a similar morphology to that of the original virus. Furthermore, the VLPs produced in silkworms were capable of inducing neutralizing antibodies against PCV2 in mice. Our results demonstrated that the silkworm system is a powerful tool for the production of PCV2 VLPs and will be useful for the development of a reliable and cost-effective PCV2 vaccine.
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