The occlusion-derived viruses (ODVs) of baculoviruses are responsible for oral infection of insect hosts, whereas budded viruses (BVs) are responsible for systemic infection within the host. The ODV membrane proteins play crucial roles in mediating virus entry into midgut epithelium cells to initiate infection and are important factors in host-range determination. For Autographa californica multiple nucleopolyhedrovirus (AcMNPV), seven conserved ODV membrane proteins have been shown to be essential for oral infectivity and are called per os infectivity factors (PIFs). Information on the function of the individual PIF proteins in virus entry is limited, partly due to the lack of a good in vitro system for monitoring ODV entry. Here, we constructed a baculovirus with EGFP fused to the nucleocapsid to monitor virus entry into primary midgut epithelium cells ex vivo using confocal fluorescence microscopy. The EGFP-labelled virus showed similar BV virulence and ODV infectivity as WT virus. The ability to bind and enter host cells was then visualized for WT AcMNPV and viruses with mutations in P74 (PIF0), PIF1 or PIF2, showing that P74 is required for ODV binding, whilst PIF1 and PIF2 play important roles in the entry of ODV after binding to midgut cells. This is the first live imaging of ODV entry into midgut cells and complements the genetic and biochemical evidence for the role of PIFs in the oral infection process.
© 2014 The Authors.