Reporter genes are used to visualize intracellular biological phenomena, including viral infection. Here we demonstrate bioluminescent imaging of viral infection using the NanoBiT system in combination with intraperitoneal injection of a furimazine analogue, hydrofurimazine. This recently developed substrate has enhanced aqueous solubility allowing delivery of higher doses for in vivo imaging. The small high-affinity peptide tag (HiBiT), which is only 11 amino-acids in length, was engineered into a clinically used oncolytic adenovirus, and the complementary large protein (LgBiT) was constitutively expressed in tumor cells. Infection of the LgBiT expressing cells with the HiBiT oncolytic virus will reconstitute NanoLuc in the cytosol of the cell, providing strong bioluminescence upon treatment with substrate. This new bioluminescent system served as an early stage quantitative viral transduction reporter in vitro and also in vivo in mice, for longitudinal monitoring of oncolytic viral persistence in infected tumor cells. This platform provides novel opportunities for studying the biology of viruses in animal models.
Keywords: bioluminescence imaging; hibit tag; hydrofurimazine; nanobit system; oncolytic virus.