A recombinant turkey herpesvirus expressing the F protein of Newcastle disease virus genotype XII generated by NHEJ-CRISPR/Cas9 and Cre-LoxP systems confers protection against genotype XII challenge in chickens

In this study, we developed a new recombinant virus rHVT-F using a Turkey herpesvirus (HVT) vector, expressing the fusion (F) protein of the genotype XII Newcastle disease virus (NDV) circulating in Peru. We evaluated the viral shedding and efficacy against the NDV genotype XII challenge in specific pathogen-free (SPF) chickens. The F protein expression cassette was inserted in the unique long (UL) UL45–UL46 intergenic locus of the HVT genome by utilizing a clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)/Cas9 gene-editing technology via a non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) repair pathway. The rHVT-F virus, which expressed the F protein stably in vitro and in vivo, showed similar growth kinetics to the wild-type HVT (wtHVT) virus. The F protein expression of the rHVT-F virus was detected by an indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA), Western blotting, and a flow cytometry assay. The presence of an NDV-specific IgY antibody was detected in serum samples by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in SPF chickens vaccinated with the rHVT-F virus. In the challenge experiment, the rHVT-F vaccine fully protects a high, and significantly reduced, virus shedding in oral at 5 days post-challenge (dpc). In conclusion, this new rHVT-F vaccine candidate is capable of fully protecting SPF chickens against the genotype XII challenge.

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