We have constructed a recombinant vaccinia virus to express the beta-subunit of human chorionic gonadotrophin (betahCG), a secretory glycoprotein that is used as an antigen for a contraceptive vaccine. The cDNA encoding the subunit was cloned under the control of a synthetic promoter that could be recognised by a vaccinia virus RNA polymerase to direct transcription. The peak expression level of betahCG directed by a late synthetic promoter (Psyn) was 11.5 microg/ml, a level that was at least sixfold higher than that directed by the p7.5 early/late promoter. The expressed protein was correctly processed post-translationally such that it attained a conformation with correctly folded discontinuous epitope(s) similar to that seen in native betahCG.
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