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Open Access Research

Origin-independent plasmid replication occurs in vaccinia virus cytoplasmic factories and requires all five known poxvirus replication factors

Frank S De Silva and Bernard Moss*

Author Affiliations

Laboratory of Viral Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-0445, USA

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Virology Journal 2005, 2:23  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-2-23

Published: 22 March 2005

Abstract

Background

Replication of the vaccinia virus genome occurs in cytoplasmic factory areas and is dependent on the virus-encoded DNA polymerase and at least four additional viral proteins. DNA synthesis appears to start near the ends of the genome, but specific origin sequences have not been defined. Surprisingly, transfected circular DNA lacking specific viral sequences is also replicated in poxvirus-infected cells. Origin-independent plasmid replication depends on the viral DNA polymerase, but neither the number of additional viral proteins nor the site of replication has been determined.

Results

Using a novel real-time polymerase chain reaction assay, we detected a >400-fold increase in newly replicated plasmid in cells infected with vaccinia virus. Studies with conditional lethal mutants of vaccinia virus indicated that each of the five proteins known to be required for viral genome replication was also required for plasmid replication. The intracellular site of replication was determined using a plasmid containing 256 repeats of the Escherichia coli lac operator and staining with an E. coli lac repressor-maltose binding fusion protein followed by an antibody to the maltose binding protein. The lac operator plasmid was localized in cytoplasmic viral factories delineated by DNA staining and binding of antibody to the viral uracil DNA glycosylase, an essential replication protein. In addition, replication of the lac operator plasmid was visualized continuously in living cells infected with a recombinant vaccinia virus that expresses the lac repressor fused to enhanced green fluorescent protein. Discrete cytoplasmic fluorescence was detected in cytoplasmic juxtanuclear sites at 6 h after infection and the area and intensity of fluorescence increased over the next several hours.

Conclusion

Replication of a circular plasmid lacking specific poxvirus DNA sequences mimics viral genome replication by occurring in cytoplasmic viral factories and requiring all five known viral replication proteins. Therefore, small plasmids may be used as surrogates for the large poxvirus genome to study trans-acting factors and mechanism of viral DNA replication.