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The production and selection of infectious vaccinia virus recombinants expressing foreign genes was facilitated by the construction of plasmid vectors. These vectors contain all or part of the vaccinia virus thymidine kinase (TK) gene interrupted by multiple unique restriction endonuclease sites placed adjacent to the TK promoter or another promoter translocated within the TK gene. The insertion of a continuous coding sequence for a foreign protein at one of the unique restriction endonuclease sites juxtaposes the transcriptional start site of a vaccinia promoter and the translational start site of a foreign gene. After transfection of vaccinia virus-infected cells with such plasmids, homologous recombination occurs between the vaccinia virus sequences flanking the chimeric gene and the same sequences within the virus genome. Recombinants formed in this manner have the chimeric gene inserted within the body of the vaccinia virus TK gene under control of a vaccinia virus promoter. Since recombinants have an interrupted TK gene, they are selected on the basis of their TK- phenotype and then checked for the presence and expression of the foreign gene. Infectious recombinant viruses expressing the procaryotic enzyme chloramphenicol acetyltransferase were constructed to optimize the system. The absence of chloramphenicol acetyltransferase activity in uninfected cells or in cells infected with wild-type vaccinia virus and the availability of a sensitive and quantitative enzyme assay allowed an estimation of the relative strengths of various promoter constructs. The expression of chloramphenicol acetyltransferase was detected within 1 h after infection of cells with recombinant virus, reflecting the early nature of the promoters used.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Virology


American Society for Microbiology

Publication Date





857 - 864