Baculoviruses are large, complex deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) viruses that infect arthropods. The viruses are highly pathogenic and a few members have been successfully exploited as biological control agents for agricultural and forestry pests. With the exception of a virus pathogenic to silk moths (Bombyx mori nucleopolyhedrovirus (NPV)), most baculovirus research is geared towards increasing virulence. The type species of baculoviruses, Autographa californica NPV, is widely used as a eukaryotic expression system for the production of vaccines and other proteins of medical and biological importance. Baculoviruses are also good model systems for the study of apoptosis, DNA replication, transcription, pathogenesis, membrane fusion and virus infectivity.

Key Concepts:

  • Baculoviruses are rod‐shaped, enveloped viruses of 30–60 nm in diameter and 250–300 nm in length.

  • Baculoviruses infect insects of the orders Lepidoptera, Diptera and Hymenoptera.

  • Baculoviruses have been genetically engineered to be highly efficient eukaryotic expression systems.

  • Baculoviruses are unusual in making two different infectious forms: occluded virus for spreading infection from insect to insect and budded virus for spreading of viral infection within an infected insect.

  • Baculoviruses have circular‐double stranded genomes, ranging from 80 to 180 kb.

  • Baculoviruses use actin filaments for intracellular transport.

  • Baculovirus DNA is infectious.

  • Baculoviruses use host RNA polymerase for synthesis of early genes and encode a viral RNA polymerase for transcription of late genes.

  • Baculovirus infection spreads through the tracheal system.

  • Baculoviruses have been successfully used to control insect pests.

Keywords: arthropods; insects; Baculoviridae; biocontrol; viral evolution; virus genes; viral infectivity; expression systems; DNA viruses

Figure 1.

Occluded virions. Baculovirus genera are based on the structures of occluded virus, polyhedral shaped for nucleopolyhedrovirus (NPV) with many enveloped nucleocapsids or smaller ovoid occlusions with a single nucleocapsid for granulovirus (GV). NPVs may contain (MNPV) or (SNPV).

Figure 2.

Structures of ODV and BV. The two baculovirus phenotypes showing shared and phenotype‐specific components.

Figure 3.

Genome structure of AcMNPV. The locations and orientations of ORFs are indicated by arrows. ORF1 is at the 12:00 position of the circular map. ORFs with known functions are labelled. The restriction map for EcoRI is indicated by letters. Locations of homologous repeat (hr) sequences are indicated on the inside of the circle as small filled boxes. Redrawn from Ayres et al. .

Figure 4.

Baculovirus life cycle. Primary infection begins with digestion of food contaminated with viral occlusions. Occlusions dissociate in the alkaline gut, releasing ODV, which fuse with midgut cells.



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Further Reading

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Rohrmann GF (2008) Baculovirus Molecular Biology. Bethesda, MD: National Center for Biotechnology Information

Shi X and Jarvis DL (2007) Protein N‐glycosylation in the baculovirus‐insect cell system. Current Drug Targets 8: 1116–1125.

Volkman LE (1995) Baculovirus bounty. Science 269: 1834.

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Guarino, Linda(Nov 2011) Baculoviruses. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001008.pub2]