Generation of HPV pseudovirions using transfection and their use in neutralization assays

Methods Mol Med. 2005;119:445-62. doi: 10.1385/1-59259-982-6:445.


It has recently become possible to generate high-titer papillomavirus-based gene-transfer vectors. The vectors, also known as papillomavirus pseudoviruses (PsV), have been useful for studying papillomavirus assembly, entry, and neutralization, and may have future utility as laboratory gene-transfer tools or vaccine vehicles. This chapter outlines a simple method for production of PsV and their use in a high-throughput papillomavirus neutralization assay. The production method is based on transfection of a 293 cell line, 293TT, engineered to express high levels of SV40 large T antigen. The cells are co-transfected with codon-modified papillomavirus capsid genes, L1 and L2, together with a pseudogenome plasmid containing the SV40 origin of replication. Pseudogenome encapsidation within L1/L2 capsids is largely sequence independent, and plasmids entirely lacking PV sequences can be packaged efficiently, provided they are less than 8 kilobases in size. Non-infectious virus-like particles (VLPs) can also be produced after transfection of 293TT cells with L1 alone. Efficient purification of the PsV or VLPs is achieved by Optiprep (iodixanol) density gradient ultracentrifugation. Using these methods, it is possible to produce highly purified PsV with yields of at least 10(9) transducing units from a single 75-cm2 flask of cells. PsV encapsidating a secreted alkaline phosphatase (SEAP) reporter plasmid were used to develop a high-throughput in vitro neutralization assay in a 96-well plate format. Infection of 293TT cells is monitored by SEAP activity in the culture supernatant, using a highly sensitive chemiluminescent reporter system. Antibody-mediated PsV neutralization is detected by a reduction in SEAP activity. The neutralization assay has similar analytic sensitivity to, and higher specificity than, a standard VLP-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Chromosome Mapping / methods
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Humans
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics*
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Transfection / methods
  • Virion / genetics*