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Expression and characterization of highly antigenic domains of chicken anemia virus viral VP2 and VP3 subunit proteins in a recombinant E. coli for sero-diagnostic applications

Guan-Hua Lai1, Ming-Kuem Lin2, Yi-Yang Lien3, Jiun-Hau Fu2, Hsi-Jien Chen4, Chi-Hung Huang5, Jason TC Tzen1* and Meng-Shiou Lee2*

Author Affiliations

1 Graduate Institute of Biotechnology, National Chung Hsing University, Taichung, Taiwan

2 Department of Chinese Pharmaceutical Science and Chinese Medicine Resources, China Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan

3 Department of Veterinary Medicine, National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Pingtung, Taiwan

4 Department of Safety, Health and Environmental Engineering, Ming chi University of Technology, Taipei, Taiwan

5 Graduate School of Biotechnology, Hung kuang University, Taichung, Taiwan

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BMC Veterinary Research 2013, 9:161  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-161

Published: 13 August 2013



Chicken anemia virus (CAV) is an important viral pathogen that causes anemia and severe immunodeficiency syndrome in chickens worldwide. Generally, CAV infection occurs via vertical transmission in young chicks that are less than two weeks old, which are very susceptible to the disease. Therefore, epidemiological investigations of CAV infection and/or the evaluation of the immunization status of chickens is necessary for disease control. Up to the present, systematically assessing viral protein antigenicity and/or determining the immunorelevant domain(s) of viral proteins during serological testing for CAV infection has never been performed. The expression, production and antigenic characterization of CAV viral proteins such as VP1, VP2 and VP3, and their use in the development of diagnostic kit would be useful for CAV infection prevention.


Three CAV viral proteins VP1, VP2 and VP3 was separately cloned and expressed in recombinant E. coli. The purified recombinant CAV VP1, VP2 and VP3 proteins were then used as antigens in order to evaluate their reactivity against chicken sera using indirect ELISA. The results indicated that VP2 and VP3 show good immunoreactivity with CAV-positive chicken sera, whereas VP1 was found to show less immunoreactivity than VP2 and VP3. To carry out the further antigenic characterization of the immunorelevant domains of the VP2 and VP3 proteins, five recombinant VP2 subunit proteins (VP2-435N, VP2-396N, VP2-345N, VP2-171C and VP2-318C) and three recombinant VP3 subunit proteins (VP3-123N, VP3-246M, VP3-366C), spanning the defined regions of VP2 and VP3 were separately produced by an E. coli expression system. These peptides were then used as antigens in indirect ELISAs against chicken sera. The results of these ELISAs using truncated recombinant VP2 and VP3 subunit proteins as coating antigen showed that VP2-345N, VP2-396N and VP3-246M gave good immunoreactivity with CAV-positive chicken sera compared to the other subunit proteins. Moreover, the VP2-396N and VP2-345 based ELISAs had better sensitivity (97.5%) and excellent specificity (100%) during serodiagnosis testing using a mean plus three standard deviations cut-off. The VP3-246M based ELISA showed a sensitivity of 85% and a specificity of 100% at the same cut-off value.


This is the first report to systematically assess the antigenic characteristics of CAV viral proteins for sero-diagnosis purposes. Purified recombinant VP2-396N and VP2-345N subunit proteins, which span defined regions of VP2, were demonstrated to have good antigenicity and higher sensitivities than VP3-246M and were able to recognize CAV-positive chicken serum using an ELISA assay. The defined antigenicity potential of these chimeric subunit proteins produced by expression in E. coli seem to have potential and could be useful in the future for the development of the CAV diagnostic tests based on a subunit protein ELISA system.