Efficient Cross-Screening and Characterization of Monoclonal Antibodies against Marek's Disease Specific Meq Oncoprotein Using CRISPR/Cas9-Gene-Edited Viruses

Marek's disease (MD) caused by pathogenic Marek's disease virus type 1 (MDV-1) is one of the most important neoplastic diseases of poultry. MDV-1-encoded unique Meq protein is the major oncoprotein and the availability of Meq-specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) is crucial for revealing MDV pathogenesis/oncogenesis. Using synthesized polypeptides from conserved hydrophilic regions of the Meq protein as immunogens, together with hybridoma technology and primary screening by cross immunofluorescence assay (IFA) on Meq-deleted MDV-1 viruses generated by CRISPR/Cas9-gene editing, a total of five positive hybridomas were generated. Four of these hybridomas, namely 2A9, 5A7, 7F9 and 8G11, were further confirmed to secrete specific antibodies against Meq as confirmed by the IFA staining of 293T cells overexpressing Meq. Confocal microscopic analysis of cells stained with these antibodies confirmed the nuclear localization of Meq in MDV-infected CEF cells and MDV-transformed MSB-1 cells. Furthermore, two mAb hybridoma clones, 2A9-B12 and 8G11-B2 derived from 2A9 and 8G11, respectively, displayed high specificity for Meq proteins of MDV-1 strains with diverse virulence. Our data presented here, using synthesized polypeptide immunization combined with cross IFA staining on CRISPR/Cas9 gene-edited viruses, has provided a new efficient approach for future generation of specific mAbs against viral proteins.

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