Novel immune-modulator identified by a rapid, functional screen of the parapoxvirus ovis (Orf virus) genome

Michael J. McGuire, Stephen Johnston, Kathryn F. Sykes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Background: The success of new sequencing technologies and informatic methods for identifying genes has made establishing gene product function a critical rate limiting step in progressing the molecular sciences. We present a method to functionally mine genomes for useful activities in vivo, using an unusual property of a member of the poxvirus family to demonstrate this screening approach.Results: The genome of Parapoxvirus ovis (Orf virus) was sequenced, annotated, and then used to PCR-amplify its open-reading-frames. Employing a cloning-independent protocol, a viral expression-library was rapidly built and arrayed into sub-library pools. These were directly delivered into mice as expressible cassettes and assayed for an immune-modulating activity associated with parapoxvirus infection. The product of the B2L gene, a homolog of vaccinia F13L, was identified as the factor eliciting immune cell accumulation at sites of skin inoculation. Administration of purified B2 protein also elicited immune cell accumulation activity, and additionally was found to serve as an adjuvant for antigen-specific responses. Co-delivery of the B2L gene with an influenza gene-vaccine significantly improved protection in mice. Furthermore, delivery of the B2L expression construct, without antigen, non-specifically reduced tumor growth in murine models of cancer.Conclusion: A streamlined, functional approach to genome-wide screening of a biological activity in vivo is presented. Its application to screening in mice for an immune activity elicited by the pathogen genome of Parapoxvirus ovis yielded a novel immunomodulator. In this inverted discovery method, it was possible to identify the adjuvant responsible for a function of interest prior to a mechanistic study of the adjuvant. The non-specific immune activity of this modulator, B2, is similar to that associated with administration of inactivated particles to a host or to a live viral infection. Administration of B2 may provide the opportunity to significantly impact host immunity while being itself only weakly recognized. The functional genomics method used to pinpoint B2 within an ORFeome may be more broadly applicable to screening for other biological activities in an animal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4
JournalProteome Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 13 2012


  • Adjuvant
  • Functional screen
  • Genetic immunization
  • Immunomodulator
  • Orf virus
  • Parapox

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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