Infectious clone of a contemporary Tembusu virus and replicons expressing reporter genes or heterologous antigens from poultry viruses

Comes, Jerome D.G.; Poniman, Meliawati; van Oosten, Linda; Doets, Kristel; de Cloe, Sjoerd; Geertsema, Corinne; Pijlman, Gorben P.


The novel mosquito-borne Tembusu virus (TMUV, family Flaviviridae) was discovered as the cause of a severe outbreak of egg-drop syndrome affecting ducks in Southeast Asia in 2010. TMUV infection can also lead to high mortality in various additional avian species such as geese, pigeons, and chickens. This study describes the construction of an infectious cDNA clone of a contemporary duck-isolate (TMUV WU2016). The virus recovered after transfection of BHK-21 cells shows enhanced virus replication compared to the mosquito-derived MM1775 strain. Next, the WU2016 cDNA clone was modified to create a SP6 promoter-driven, self-amplifying mRNA (replicon) capable of expressing a range of different reporter genes (Renilla luciferase, mScarlet, mCherry, and GFP) and viral (glyco)proteins of avian influenza virus (AIV; family Orthomyxoviridae), infectious bursal disease virus (IDBV; family Bunyaviridae) and infectious bronchitis virus (IBV; family Coronaviridae). The current study demonstrates the flexibility of the TMUV replicon system, to produce different heterologous proteins over an extended period of time and its potential use as a platform technology for novel poultry vaccines.