Characterization of epitope-tagged foot-and-mouth disease virus
Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious and economically devastating disease of cloven-hoofed animals with an almost-worldwide distribution. Conventional FMD vaccines consisting of chemically inactivated viruses have aided in the eradication of FMD from Europe and remain the main tool for control in endemic countries. Although significant steps have been made to improve the quality of vaccines, such as improved methods of antigen concentration and purification, manufacturing processes are technically demanding and expensive. Consequently, there is large variation in the quality of vaccines distributed in FMD-endemic countries compared with those manufactured for emergency use in FMD-free countries. Here, we have used reverse genetics to introduce haemagglutinin (HA) and FLAG tags into the foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) capsid. HA- and FLAG-tagged FMDVs were infectious, with a plaque morphology similar to the non-tagged parental infectious copy virus and the field virus. The tagged viruses utilized integrin-mediated cell entry and retained the tag epitopes over serial passages. In addition, infectious HA- and FLAG-tagged FMDVs were readily purified from small-scale cultures using commercial antibodies. Tagged FMDV offers a feasible alternative to the current methods of vaccine concentration and purification, a potential to develop FMD vaccine conjugates and a unique tool for FMDV research.