Viruses as vectors in eucaryotic systems

Several proteins of clinical or commercial interest are too complex to be expressed using microbial host cells, even eucaryotic ones, and are only properly produced in mammalian systems. Vectors based on animal viruses such as SV40, adenoviruses and vaccinia virus have been successfully developed for use in these. Vaccinia has been particularly valuable in the development of recombinant vaccines.

Viruses of humans such as adenoviruses and retroviruses have also been tested as vectors in the exciting new technique of gene therapy, which attempts to ameliorate the effects of genetic disorders by introducing the 'correct' form of the defective gene into the patient's cells. Here it is important to ensure stable integration of the inserted DNA into the host chromosome.

A large virus that infects insects, the baculovirus, has been found to be a highly efficient vector for the large-scale expression of eucaryotic proteins in cultured insect cells. The rate of expression is much higher than in cultured mammalian cells, and the necessary protein folding and post-translational modifications are correctly executed.

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