On the basis of previous studies of dicistronic (dc) polioviruses that carried two internal ribosomal entry sites (L. Alexander, H.-H. Lu, and E. Wimmer, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 91:1406-1410, 1994; A. Molla, S. K. Jang, A. V. Paul, Q. Reuer, and E. Wimmer, Nature [London] 356:255-257, 1992), we have constructed a variety of dc polioviruses which express foreign genetic elements that were inserted either between two internal ribosomal entry site elements upstream of the poliovirus open reading frame (pPNENPO derivatives) or upstream of the open reading frame for the poliovirus proteinase 2Apro (pDI-E2A derivatives). Surprisingly, the addition of an N-terminal secretory pathway signal sequence to the open reading frame of the inserted foreign sequences (specifying either truncated versions of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 [HIV-1] gp120 or chloramphenicol acetyltransferase) resulted in a null phenotype, whereas removal of the signal sequence led to the production of viable viruses. Constructs that carried a foreign gene with a signal sequence were negative in RNA synthesis, an observation that suggested a very early block in viral replication. The insertion of transmembrane sequences downstream of the leader sequence did not reverse the replication block. Studies of dc polioviruses that encoded the truncated versions of HIV-1 gp120 showed an increase in genetic stability that correlated with a decrease in the size of the insert. A dc construct that contained a minigene encoding the principal neutralization determinant of HIV-1 produced a stable virus that retained the foreign sequence through multiple passages in cultured cells. These data indicate that dc polioviruses have potential as vaccines for the expression of small foreign epitopes
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