Simian virus 40 (SV40) large T and small t antigens were synthesized in insect cells using the baculovirus Autographa californica as an expression vector. A recombinant virus containing a genomic copy of the SV40 early region expressed high levels of small t antigen but only low levels of large T antigen. However, very high levels of T antigen synthesis were observed when viruses were constructed with a cDNA copy of the large T antigen mRNA. Insect cells were capable of modifying T antigen by phosphorylation, palmitylation, glycosylation, and oligomerization. Functional assays demonstrated that the origin-specific DNA binding, ATPase, and helicase activities of insect cell-derived T antigen were comparable to T antigen synthesized in mammalian cells. Use of the baculovirus vector system to produce T antigen should facilitate future investigations requiring large quantities of T antigen.
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