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Title:  Scorpion toxins
United States Patent: 
7,172,901
Issued: 
February 6, 2007

Inventors: 
Herrmann; Rafael (Wilmington, DE), Lee; Jian-Ming (Monroe, CT), Lu; Albert L. (Newark, DE), Presnail; James K. (Landenberg, PA), Wong; James F H (Johnston, IA)
Assignee: 
E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (Wilmington, DE)
Appl. No.: 
10/614,934
Filed: 
July 8, 2003


 

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Abstract

This invention relates to an isolated nucleic acid fragment encoding scorpion toxins that are K-channel agonists. The invention also relates to the construction of a chimeric gene encoding all or a portion of the K-channel agonists, in sense or antisense orientation, wherein expression of the chimeric gene results in production of altered levels of the K-channel agonists in a transformed host cell.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to isolated polynucleotides comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a K-channel agonist polypeptide having at least 25 amino acids that has at least 95% identity based on the Clustal method of alignment when compared to a polypeptide selected from the group consisting of a scorpion K-channel agonist polypeptide of SEQ ID NOs:2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16. The present invention also relates to an isolated polynucleotide comprising the complement of the nucleotide sequences described above.

It is preferred that the isolated polynucleotides of the claimed invention consist of a nucleic acid sequence selected from the group consisting of SEQ ID NOs:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15 that codes for the polypeptide selected from the group consisting of SEQ ID NOs:2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16.

The present invention relates to a chimeric gene comprising an isolated polynucleotide of the present invention operably linked to suitable regulatory sequences.

The present invention relates to an isolated host cell comprising a chimeric gene of the present invention or an isolated polynucleotide of the present invention. The host cell may be eukaryotic, such as an insect, a yeast or a plant cell, or prokaryotic, such as a bacterial cell. The present invention also relates to a virus, preferably a baculovirus, comprising an isolated polynucleotide of the present invention or a chimeric gene of the present invention.

The present invention relates to a process for producing an isolated host cell comprising a chimeric gene of the present invention or an isolated polynucleotide of the present invention, the process comprising either transforming or transfecting an isolated compatible host cell with a chimeric gene or isolated polynucleotide of the present invention.

The present invention relates to a potassium channel blocking toxin 15-1, an agitoxin 1, a leiuropeptide II, a kaliotoxin 2 precursor, a tityustoxin k alpha, a charybdotoxin, or a charybdotoxin 2 polypeptide having at least 25 amino acids and at least 95% homology based on the Clustal method of alignment compared to a polypeptide selected from the group consisting of SEQ ID NOs:2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16.

The present invention relates to a method of selecting an isolated polynucleotide that affects the level of expression of a potassium channel blocking toxin 15-1, an agitoxin 1, a leiuropeptide II, a kaliotoxin 2 precursor, a tityustoxin k alpha, a charybdotoxin, or a charybdotoxin 2 polypeptide in a host cell, the method comprising the steps of: (a) constructing an isolated polynucleotide of the present invention or an isolated chimeric gene of the present invention; (b) introducing the isolated polynucleotide or the isolated chimeric gene into a host cell; (c) measuring the level a potassium channel blocking toxin 15-1, an agitoxin 1, a leiuropeptide II, a kaliotoxin 2 precursor, a tityustoxin k alpha, a charybdotoxin, or a charybdotoxin 2 polypeptide in the host cell containing the isolated polynucleotide; and (d) comparing the level of a potassium channel blocking toxin 15-1, an agitoxin 1, a leiuropeptide II, a kaliotoxin 2 precursor, a tityustoxin k alpha, a charybdotoxin, or a charybdotoxin 2 polypeptide in the host cell containing the isolated polynucleotide with the level of a potassium channel blocking toxin 15-1, an agitoxin 1, a leiuropeptide II, a kaliotoxin 2 precursor, a tityustoxin k alpha, a charybdotoxin, or a charybdotoxin 2 polypeptide in a host cell that does not contain the isolated polynucleotide.

The present invention relates to a method of obtaining a nucleic acid fragment encoding a substantial portion of a potassium channel blocking toxin 15-1, an agitoxin 1, a leiuropeptide II, a kaliotoxin 2 precursor, a tityustoxin k alpha, a charybdotoxin, or a charybdotoxin 2 polypeptide gene, preferably a scorpion K-channel agonist polypeptide gene. comprising the steps of: synthesizing an oligonucleotide primer comprising a nucleotide sequence of at least one of 60 (preferably at least one of 40, most preferably at least one of 30) contiguous nucleotides derived from a nucleotide sequence selected from the group consisting of SEQ ID NOs:1,3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, and the complement of such nucleotide sequences; and amplifying a nucleic acid fragment (preferably a cDNA inserted in a cloning vector) using the oligonucleotide primer. The amplified nucleic acid fragment preferably will encode a portion of a potassium channel blocking toxin 15-1, an agitoxin 1, a leiuropeptide II, a kaliotoxin 2 precursor, a tityustoxin k alpha, a charybdotoxin, or a charybdotoxin 2 amino acid sequence.

The present invention also relates to a method of obtaining a nucleic acid fragment encoding all or a substantial portion of the amino acid sequence encoding a potassium channel blocking toxin 15-1, an agitoxin 1, a leiuropeptide II, a kaliotoxin 2 precursor, a tityustoxin k alpha, a charybdotoxin, or a charybdotoxin 2 polypeptide comprising the steps of: probing a cDNA or genomic library with an isolated polynucleotide of the present invention; identifying a DNA clone that hybridizes with an isolated polynucleotide of the present invention; isolating the identified DNA clone; and sequencing the cDNA or genomic fragment that comprises the isolated DNA clone.

Another embodiment of the instant invention pertains to a method for expressing a gene encoding a potassium channel blocking toxin 15-1, an agitoxin 1, a leiuropeptide II, a kaliotoxin 2 precursor, a tityustoxin k alpha, a charybdotoxin, or a charybdotoxin 2 in the genome of a recombinant baculovirus in insect cell culture or in viable insects wherein said insect cells or insects have been genetically engineered to express a potassium channel blocking toxin 15-1, an agitoxin 1, a leiropeptide II, a kaliotoxin 2 precursor, a tityustoxin k alpha, a charybdotoxin, or a charybdotoxin 2.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In the context of this disclosure, a number of terms shall be utilized. As used herein, a "polynucleotide" is a nucleotide sequence such as a nucleic acid fragment. A polynucleotide may be a polymer of RNA or DNA that is single- or double-stranded, that optionally contains synthetic, non-natural or altered nucleotide bases. A polynucleotide in the form of a polymer of DNA may be comprised of one or more segments of cDNA, genomic DNA, synthetic DNA, or mixtures thereof. An isolated polynucleotide of the present invention may include at least one of 60 contiguous nucleotides, preferably at least one of 40 contiguous nucleotides, most preferably one of at least 30 contiguous nucleotides, of the nucleic acid sequence of the SEQ ID NOs:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15.

"NPV" stands for Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus, a baculovirus. "Polyhedrosis" refers to any of several virus diseases of insect larvae characterized by dissolution of tissues and accumulation of polyhedral granules in the resultant fluid. "PIBs" are polyhedral inclusion bodies. "AcNPV" stands for the wild-type Autographa californica Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus.

As used herein, "substantially similar" refers to nucleic acid fragments wherein changes in one or more nucleotide bases results in substitution of one or more amino acids, but do not affect the functional properties of the polypeptide encoded by the polynucleotide sequence. "Substantially similar" also refers to modifications of the nucleic acid fragments of the instant invention such as deletion or insertion of one or more nucleotides that do not substantially affect the functional properties of the resulting protein molecule. It is therefore understood that the invention encompasses more than the specific exemplary sequences.

Moreover, substantially similar nucleic acid fragments may also be characterized by their ability to hybridize. Estimates of such homology are provided by either DNA-DNA or DNA-RNA hybridization under conditions of stringency as is well understood by those skilled in the art (Hames and Higgins, Eds. (1985) Nucleic Acid Hybridisation, IRL Press, Oxford, U.K.). Stringency conditions can be adjusted to screen for moderately similar fragments, such as homologous sequences from distantly related organisms, to highly similar fragments, such as genes that duplicate functional enzymes from closely related organisms. Post-hybridization washes determine stringency conditions. One set of preferred conditions uses a series of washes starting with 6.times.SSC, 0.5% SDS at room temperature for 15 min, then repeated with 2.times.SSC, 0.5% SDS at 45.degree. C. for 30 min, and then repeated twice with 0.2.times.SSC, 0.5% SDS at 50.degree. C. for 30 min. A more preferred set of stringent conditions uses higher temperatures in which the washes are identical to those above except for the temperature of the final two 30 min washes in 0.2.times.SSC, 0.5% SDS was increased to 60.degree. C. Another preferred set of highly stringent conditions uses two final washes in 0.1.times.SSC, 0.1% SDS at 65.degree. C.

Substantially similar nucleic acid fragments of the instant invention may also be characterized by the percent identity of the amino acid sequences that they encode to the amino acid sequences disclosed herein, as determined by algorithms commonly employed by those skilled in this art. Suitable nucleic acid fragments (isolated polynucleotides of the present invention) encode polypeptides that are at least about 70% identical, preferably at least about 80% identical to the amino acid sequences reported herein. Preferred nucleic acid fragments encode amino acid sequences that are at least about 85% identical to the amino acid sequences reported herein. More preferred nucleic acid fragments encode amino acid sequences that are at least about 90% identical to the amino acid sequences reported herein. Most preferred are nucleic acid fragments that encode amino acid sequences that are at least about 95% identical to the amino acid sequences reported herein. Suitable nucleic acid fragments not only have the above homologies but typically encode a polypeptide having at least about 50 amino acids, preferably at least about 100 amino acids, more preferably at least about 150 amino acids, still more preferably at least about 200 amino acids, and most preferably at least about 250 amino acids. Sequence alignments and percent identity calculations were performed using the Megalign program of the LASERGENE bioinformatics computing suite (DNASTAR Inc., Madison, Wis.). Multiple alignment of the sequences was performed using the Clustal method of alignment (Higgins and Sharp (1989) CABIOS. 5:151 153) with the default parameters (GAP PENALTY=10, GAP LENGTH PENALTY=10). Default parameters for pairwise alignments using the Clustal method were KTUPLE 1, GAP PENALTY=3, WINDOW=5 and DIAGONALS SAVED=5.

A "substantial portion" of an amino acid or nucleotide sequence comprises an amino acid or a nucleotide sequence that is sufficient to afford putative identification of the protein or gene that the amino acid or nucleotide sequence comprises. Amino acid and nucleotide sequences can be evaluated either manually by one skilled in the art, or by using computer-based sequence comparison and identification tools that employ algorithms such as BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool; Altschul et al. (1993) J. Mol. Biol. 215:403 410. In general, a sequence of ten or more contiguous amino acids or thirty or more contiguous nucleotides is necessary in order to putatively identify a polypeptide or nucleic acid sequence as homologous to a known protein or gene. Moreover, with respect to nucleotide sequences, gene-specific oligonucleotide probes comprising 30 or more contiguous nucleotides may be used in sequence-dependent methods of gene identification (e.g., Southern hybridization) and isolation (e.g., in situ hybridization of bacterial colonies or bacteriophage plaques). In addition, short oligonucleotides of 12 or more nucleotides may be used as amplification primers in PCR in order to obtain a particular nucleic acid fragment comprising the primers. Accordingly, a "substantial portion" of a nucleotide sequence comprises a nucleotide sequence that will afford specific identification and/or isolation of a nucleic acid fragment comprising the sequence. The instant specification teaches amino acid and nucleotide sequences encoding polypeptides that comprise one or more particular plant proteins. The skilled artisan, having the benefit of the sequences as reported herein, may now use all or a substantial portion of the disclosed sequences for purposes known to those skilled in this art. Accordingly, the instant invention comprises the complete sequences as reported in the accompanying Sequence Listing, as well as substantial portions of those sequences as defined above.

"Codon degeneracy" refers to divergence in the genetic code permitting variation of the nucleotide sequence without effecting the amino acid sequence of an encoded polypeptide. Accordingly, the instant invention relates to any nucleic acid fragment comprising a nucleotide sequence that encodes all or a substantial portion of the amino acid sequences set forth herein. The skilled artisan is well aware of the "codon-bias" exhibited by a specific host cell in usage of nucleotide codons to specify a given amino acid. Therefore, when synthesizing a nucleic acid fragment for improved expression in a host cell, it is desirable to design the nucleic acid fragment such that its frequency of codon usage approaches the frequency of preferred codon usage of the host cell.

"Synthetic nucleic acid fragments" can be assembled from oligonucleotide building blocks that are chemically synthesized using procedures known to those skilled in the art. These building blocks are ligated and annealed to form larger nucleic acid fragments which may then be enzymatically assembled to construct the entire desired nucleic acid fragment. "Chemically synthesized", as related to nucleic acid fragment, means that the component nucleotides were assembled in vitro. Manual chemical synthesis of nucleic acid fragments may be accomplished using well established procedures, or automated chemical synthesis can be performed using one of a number of commercially available machines. Accordingly, the nucleic acid fragments can be tailored for optimal gene expression based on optimization of nucleotide sequence to reflect the codon bias of the host cell. The skilled artisan appreciates the likelihood of successful gene expression if codon usage is biased towards those codons favored by the host. Determination of preferred codons can be based on a survey of genes derived from the host cell where sequence information is available.

"Gene" refers to a nucleic acid fragment that expresses a specific protein, including regulatory sequences preceding (5' non-coding sequences) and following (3' non-coding sequences) the coding sequence. "Native gene" refers to a gene as found in nature with its own regulatory sequences. "Chimeric gene" refers any gene that is not a native gene, comprising regulatory and coding sequences that are not found together in nature. Accordingly, a chimeric gene may comprise regulatory sequences and coding sequences that are derived from different sources, or regulatory sequences and coding sequences derived from the same source, but arranged in a manner different than that found in nature. "Endogenous gene" refers to a native gene in its natural location in the genome of an organism. A "foreign" gene refers to a gene not normally found in the host organism, but that is introduced into the host organism by gene transfer. Foreign genes can comprise native genes inserted into a non-native organism, or chimeric genes. A "transgene" is a gene that has been introduced into the genome by a transformation procedure.

"Coding sequence" refers to a nucleotide sequence that codes for a specific amino acid sequence. "Regulatory sequences" refer to nucleotide sequences located upstream (5' non-coding sequences), within, or downstream (3' non-coding sequences) of a coding sequence, and which influence the transcription, RNA processing or stability, or translation of the associated coding sequence. Regulatory sequences may include promoters, translation leader sequences, introns, and polyadenylation recognition sequences.

"Promoter" refers to a nucleotide sequence capable of controlling the expression of a coding sequence or functional RNA. In general, a coding sequence is located 3' to a promoter sequence. The promoter sequence consists of proximal and more distal upstream elements, the latter elements often referred to as enhancers. Accordingly, an "enhancer" is a nucleotide sequence which can stimulate promoter activity and may be an innate element of the promoter or a heterologous element inserted to enhance the level or tissue-specificity of a promoter. Promoters may be derived in their entirety from a native gene, or be composed of different elements derived from different promoters found in nature, or even comprise synthetic nucleotide segments. It is understood by those skilled in the art that different promoters may direct the expression of a gene in different tissues or cell types, or at different stages of development, or in response to different environmental conditions. Promoters which cause a nucleic acid fragment to be expressed in most cell types at most times are commonly referred to as "constitutive promoters". New promoters of various types useful in a variety of cells are constantly being discovered; numerous examples may be found in the compilation by Okamuro and Goldberg (1989) Biochemistry of Plants 15:1 82. It is further recognized that since in most cases the exact boundaries of regulatory sequences have not been completely defined, DNA fragments of different lengths may have identical promoter activity.

The "translation leader sequence" refers to a nucleotide sequence located between the promoter sequence of a gene and the coding sequence. The translation leader sequence is present in the fully processed mRNA upstream of the translation start sequence. The translation leader sequence may affect processing of the primary transcript to mRNA, mRNA stability or translation efficiency. Examples of translation leader sequences have been described (Turner and Foster (1995) Mol. Biotechnol. 3:225 236).

The "3' non-coding sequences" refer to nucleotide sequences located downstream of a coding sequence and include polyadenylation recognition sequences and other sequences encoding regulatory signals capable of affecting mRNA processing or gene expression. The polyadenylation signal is usually characterized by affecting the addition of polyadenylic acid tracts to the 3' end of the mRNA precursor. The use of different 3' non-coding sequences is exemplified by Ingelbrecht et al. (1989) Plant Cell 1:671 680.

"RNA transcript" refers to the product resulting from RNA polymerase-catalyzed transcription of a DNA sequence. When the RNA transcript is a perfect complementary copy of the DNA sequence, it is referred to as the primary transcript or it may be a RNA sequence derived from posttranscriptional processing of the primary transcript and is referred to as the mature RNA. "Messenger RNA (mRNA)" refers to the RNA that is without introns and that can be translated into protein by the cell. "cDNA" refers to a double-stranded DNA that is complementary to and derived from mRNA. "Sense" RNA refers to RNA transcript that includes the mRNA and so can be translated into protein by the cell. "Functional RNA" refers to sense RNA, ribozyme RNA, or other RNA that may not be translated but yet has an effect on cellular processes.

The term "operably linked" refers to the association of two or more nucleic acid fragments on a single nucleic acid fragment so that the function of one is affected by the other. For example, a promoter is operably linked with a coding sequence when it is capable of affecting the expression of that coding sequence (i.e., that the coding sequence is under the transcriptional control of the promoter). Coding sequences can be operably linked to regulatory sequences in sense orientation.

The term "expression", as used herein, refers to the transcription and stable accumulation of sense (mRNA) or antisense RNA derived from the nucleic acid fragment of the invention. Expression may also refer to translation of mRNA into a polypeptide. "Overexpression" refers to the production of a gene product in transgenic organisms that exceeds levels of production in normal or non-transformed organisms.

"Altered levels" refers to the production of gene product(s) in transgenic organisms in amounts or proportions that differ from that of normal or non-transformed organisms.

A "signal sequence" is an amino acid sequence that is covalently linked to an amino acid sequence representing a mature protein. The signal sequence directs the protein to the secretory system (Chrispeels (1991) Ann. Rev. Plant Phys. Plant Mol. Biol. 42:21 53). "Mature" protein refers to a post-translationally processed polypeptide; i.e., one from which any pre- or pro-peptides, including signal sequences, present in the primary translation product have been removed. "Precursor" protein refers to the primary product of translation of mRNA; i.e., with pre- and pro-peptides still present. Pre- and pro-peptides may be but are not limited to intracellular localization signals.

"Transformation" refers to the transfer of a nucleic acid fragment into the genome of a host organism, resulting in genetically stable inheritance. Host organisms containing the transformed nucleic acid fragments are referred to as "transgenic" organisms. Examples of methods of plant transformation include Agrobacterium-mediated transformation (De Blaere et al. (1987) Meth. Enzymol. 143:277) and particle-accelerated or "gene gun" transformation technology (Klein et al. (1987) Nature (London) 327:70 73; U.S. Pat. No. 4,945,050, incorporated herein by reference).

It is understood that "an insect cell" refers to one or more insect cells maintained in vitro as well as one or more cells found in an intact, living insect.

Standard recombinant DNA and molecular cloning techniques used herein are well known in the art and are described more fully in Sambrook et al. Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual; Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press: Cold Spring Harbor, 1989 (hereinafter "Maniatis").

Nucleic acid fragments encoding at least a portion of several scorpion potassium channel agonists have been isolated and identified by comparison of cDNA sequences to public databases containing nucleotide and protein sequences using the BLAST algorithms well known to those skilled in the art. The nucleic acid fragments of the instant invention may be used to isolate cDNAs and genes encoding homologous proteins from the same or other arthropod species. Isolation of homologous genes using sequence-dependent protocols is well known in the art. Examples of sequence-dependent protocols include, but are not limited to, methods of nucleic acid hybridization, and methods of DNA and RNA amplification as exemplified by various uses of nucleic acid amplification technologies (e.g., polymerase chain reaction, ligase chain reaction).

For example, genes encoding other potassium channel blocking toxin 15-1, agitoxin 1, leiuropeptide II, kaliotoxin 2, tityustoxin k alpha, chrybdotoxin or charybdotoxin 2, either as cDNAs or genomic DNAs, could be isolated directly by using all or a portion of the instant nucleic acid fragments as DNA hybridization probes to screen libraries from any desired arthropod employing methodology well known to those skilled in the art. Specific oligonucleotide probes based upon the instant nucleic acid sequences can be designed and synthesized by methods known in the art (Maniatis). Moreover, the entire sequences can be used directly to synthesize DNA probes by methods known to the skilled artisan such as random primer DNA labeling, nick translation, or end-labeling techniques, or RNA probes using available in vitro transcription systems. In addition, specific primers can be designed and used to amplify a part or all of the instant sequences. The resulting amplification products can be labeled directly during amplification reactions or labeled after amplification reactions, and used as probes to isolate full length cDNA or genomic fragments under conditions of appropriate stringency. In addition, two short segments of the instant nucleic acid fragments may be used in polymerase chain reaction protocols to amplify longer nucleic acid fragments encoding homologous genes from DNA or RNA. The polymerase chain reaction may also be performed on a library of cloned nucleic acid fragments wherein the sequence of one primer is derived from the instant nucleic acid fragments, and the sequence of the other primer takes advantage of the presence of the polyadenylic acid tracts to the 3' end of the MRNA precursor encoding arthropod genes. Alternatively, the second primer sequence may be based upon sequences derived from the cloning vector. For example, the skilled artisan can follow the RACE protocol (Frohman et al. (1988) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 85:8998 9002) to generate cDNAs by using PCR to amplify copies of the region between a single point in the transcript and the 3' or 5' end. Primers oriented in the 3' and 5' directions can be designed from the instant sequences. Using commercially available 3' RACE or 5' RACE systems (BRL), specific 3' or 5' cDNA fragments can be isolated (Ohara et al. (1989) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 86:5673 5677; Loh et al. (1989) Science 243:217 220). Products generated by the 3' and 5' RACE procedures can be combined to generate full-length cDNAs (Frohman and Martin (1989) Techniques 1:165). Consequently, a polynucleotide comprising a nucleotide sequence of at least one of 60 (preferably one of at least 40, most preferably one of at least 30) contiguous nucleotides derived from a nucleotide sequence selected from the group consisting of SEQ ID NOs:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15 and the complement of such nucleotide sequences may be used in such methods to obtain a nucleic acid fragment encoding a substantial portion of an amino acid sequence of a polypeptide such as Scorpion Potassium Channel Blocking Toxin 15-1 protein. The present invention relates to a method of obtaining a nucleic acid fragment encoding a polypeptide (such as Potassium Channel Blocking Toxin 15-1 protein, an Agitoxin 1, a Leiuropeptide II, a Kaliotoxin 2 Precursor I, a Tityustoxin k Alpha, or a Charybdotoxin), comprising the steps of: synthesizing an oligonucleotide primer comprising a nucleotide sequence of at least one of 60 (preferably at least one of 40, most preferably at least one of 30) contiguous nucleotides derived from a nucleotide sequence selected from the group consisting of SEQ ID NOs:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15 and the complement of such nucleotide sequences; and amplifying a nucleic acid fragment (preferably a cDNA inserted in a cloning vector) using the oligonucleotide primer. The amplified nucleic acid fragment preferably will encode a portion of a polypeptide (such as Potassium Channel Blocking Toxin 15-1 protein, an Agitoxin 1, a Leiuropeptide II, a Kaliotoxin 2 Precursor I, a Tityustoxin k Alpha, or a Charybdotoxin).

Availability of the instant nucleotide and deduced amino acid sequences facilitates immunological screening of cDNA expression libraries. Synthetic peptides representing portions of the instant amino acid sequences may be synthesized. These peptides can be used to immunize animals to produce polyclonal or monoclonal antibodies with specificity for peptides or proteins comprising the amino acid sequences. These antibodies can be then be used to screen cDNA expression libraries to isolate full-length cDNA clones of interest (Lerner (1984) Adv. Immunol. 36:1 34; Maniatis).

The nucleic acid fragments of the instant invention may be used to create transgenic plants in which the disclosed K-channel agonists are expressed. This would be useful as a means for controlling insect pests by producing plants that are more insect-tolerant than the naturally occurring variety.

Expression in plants of the proteins of the instant invention may be accomplished by 35 first constructing a chimeric gene in which the coding region is operably linked to a promoter capable of directing expression of a gene in the desired tissues at the desired stage of development. For reasons of convenience, the chimeric gene may comprise promoter sequences and translation leader sequences derived from the same genes. 3' Non-coding sequences encoding transcription termination signals may also be provided. The instant chimeric gene may also comprise one or more introns in order to facilitate gene expression.

Plasmid vectors comprising the instant chimeric gene can then constructed. The choice of plasmid vector is dependent upon the method that will be used to transform host plants. The skilled artisan is well aware of the genetic elements that must be present on the plasmid vector in order to successfully transform, select and propagate host cells containing the chimeric gene. The skilled artisan will also recognize that different independent transformation events will result in different levels and patterns of expression (Jones et al. (1985) EMBO J. 4:2411 2418; De Almeida et al. (1989) Mol. Gen. Genetics 218:78 86), and thus that multiple events must be screened in order to obtain lines displaying the desired expression level and pattern. Such screening may be accomplished by Southern analysis of DNA, Northern analysis of mRNA expression, Western analysis of protein expression, LC-MS, or phenotypic analysis.

The instant polypeptides (or portions thereof) may be produced in heterologous host cells, particularly in the cells of microbial hosts, and can be used to prepare antibodies to the these proteins by methods well known to those skilled in the art. The antibodies are useful for detecting the polypeptides of the instant invention in situ in cells or in vitro in cell extracts. Preferred heterologous host cells for production of the instant polypeptides are microbial hosts. Microbial expression systems and expression vectors containing regulatory sequences that direct high level expression of foreign proteins are well known to those skilled in the art. Any of these could be used to construct a chimeric gene for production of the instant polypeptides. This chimeric gene could then be introduced into appropriate microorganisms via transformation to provide high level expression of the encoded K-channel agonist. An example of a vector for high level expression of the instant polypeptides in a bacterial host is provided (Example 6).

Insecticidal baculoviruses have great potential to provide an environmentally benign method for agricultural insect pest control. However, improvements to efficacy are required in order to make these agents competitive with current chemical pest control agents. One approach for making such improvements is through genetic alteration of the virus. For instance, it may be possible to modify the viral genome in order to improve the host range of the virus, to increase the environmental stability and persistence of the virus, or to improve the infectivity and transmission of the virus. In addition, improving the rate at which the virus acts to compromise the infected insect would significantly enhance the attractiveness of insecticidal baculoviruses as adjuncts or replacements for chemical pest control agents. One method for increasing the speed with which the virus affects its insect host is to introduce into the baculovirus foreign genes that encode proteins that are toxic to the insect wherein death or incapacitation of the insect is no longer dependent solely on the course of the viral infection, but instead is aided by the accumulation of toxic levels of the foreign protein. The results are insecticidal recombinant baculoviruses.

Recombinant baculoviruses expressing the instant K-channel agonists (or portions thereof) may be prepared by protocols now known to the art (e.g., Tomalski et al., U.S. Pat. No. 5,266,317, exemplifying neurotoxins from the insect-parasitic mites; McCutchen et al. (1991) Bio/Technology 9:848 852; Maeda et al. (1991) Virology 184:777 780, illustrating construction of a recombinant baculovirus expressing AaIT; also see O'Reilly et al. (1992) Baculovirus Expression Vectors: A Laboratory Manual, W. H. Freeman and Company, New York; King and Possee (1992) The Baculovirus Expression System, Chapman and Hall, London; U.S. Pat. No. 4,745,051). These methods of gene expression provide economical preparation of foreign proteins in a eukaryotic expression vector system, in many instances yielding proteins that have achieved their proper tertiary conformation and formed the proper disulfide bridges necessary for activity.

Commonly, the introduction of heterologous genes into the baculovirus genome occurs by homologous recombination between viral genomic DNA and a suitable "transfer vector" containing the heterologous gene of interest. These transfer vectors are generally plasmid DNAs that are capable of autonomous replication in bacterial hosts, affording facile genetic manipulation. Baculovirus transfer vectors also contain a genetic cassette comprising a region of the viral genome that has been modified to include the following features (listed in the 5' to 3' direction): 1) viral DNA comprising the 5' region of a non-essential genomic region; 2) a viral promoter; 3) one or more DNA sequences encoding restriction enzyme sites facilitating insertion of heterologous DNA sequences; 4) a transcriptional termination sequence; and 5) viral DNA comprising the 3' region of a non-essential genomic region. A heterologous gene of interest is inserted into the transfer vector at the restriction site downstream of the viral promoter. The resulting cassette comprises a chimeric gene wherein the heterologous gene is under the transcriptional control of the viral promoter and transcription termination sequences present on the transfer vector. Moreover, this chimeric gene is flanked by viral DNA sequences that facilitate homologous recombination at a non-essential region of the viral genome. Recombinant viruses are created by co-transfecting insect cells that are capable of supporting viral replication with viral genomic DNA and the recombinant transfer vector. Homologous recombination between the flanking viral DNA sequences present on the transfer vector and the homologous sequences on the viral genomic DNA takes place and results in insertion of the chimeric gene into a region of the viral genome that does not disrupt an essential viral function. The infectious recombinant virion consists of the recombined genomic DNA, referred to as the baculovirus expression vector, surrounded by a protein coat.

In a preferred embodiment, the non-essential region of the viral genome that is present on the transfer vector comprises the region of the viral DNA responsible for polyhedrin production. Most preferred is a transfer vector that contains the entire polyhedrin gene between the flanking sequences that are involved in homologous recombination. Recombination with genomic DNA from viruses that are defective in polyhedrin production (due to a defect in the genomic copy of the polyhedrin gene) will result in restoration of the polyhedrin-positive phenotype. This strategy facilitates identification and selection of recombinant viruses.

In another embodiment, baculoviral genomic DNA can be directly modified by introduction of a unique restriction enzyme recognition sequence into a non-essential region of the viral genome. A chimeric gene comprising the heterologous gene to be expressed by the recombinant virus and operably linked to regulatory sequences capable of directing gene expression in baculovirus-infected insect cells, can be constructed and inserted directly into the viral genome at the unique restriction site. This strategy eliminates both the need for construction of transfer vectors and reliance on homologous recombination for generation of recombinant viruses. This technology is described by Ernst et al. (Ernst et al. (1994) Nuc. Acid Res. 22: 2855 2856), and in WO 94/28114.

Recombinant baculovirus expression vectors suitable for delivering genetically encoded insect-specific neurotoxins require optimal toxin gene expression for maximum efficacy. A number of strategies can be used by the skilled artisan to design and prepare recombinant baculoviruses wherein toxin gene expression results in sufficient quantities of toxin produced at appropriate times during infection in a functional form and available for binding to target cells within the insect host.

The isolated toxin gene fragment may be digested with appropriate enzymes and may be inserted into the pTZ-18R plasmid (Pharmacia, Piscataway, N.J.) at the multiple cloning site using standard molecular cloning techniques. Following transformation of E. coli DH5.alpha.MCR, isolated colonies may be chosen and plasmid DNA prepared. Positive clones will be identified and sequenced with the commercially available forward and reverse primers.

Spodoptera frugiperda cells (Sf-9) may be propagated in ExCell.RTM. 401 media (JRH Biosciences, Lenexa, Kans.) supplemented with 3.0% fetal bovine serum. Lipofectin.RTM. (50 .mu.L at 0.1 mg/mL, Gibco/BRL) may be added to a 50 .mu.L aliquot of the transfer vector containing the toxin gene of interest (500 ng) and linearized polyhedrin-negative AcNPV (2.5 .mu.g, Baculogold.RTM. viral DNA, Pharmigen, San Diego, Calif.). Sf-9 cells (approximate 50% monolayer) may be co-transfected with the viral DNA/transfer vector solution. The supernatant fluid from the co-transfection experiment may be collected at 5 days post-transfection and recombinant viruses may be isolated employing standard plaque purification protocols, wherein only polyhedrin-positive plaques will be selected (Granados and Lawler (1981) Virology, 108, 297 308).

To propagate the recombinant virus of interest, isolated plaques may be picked and suspended in 500 .mu.L of ExCell.RTM. media supplemented with 2.5% fetal bovine serum. Sf-9 cells in 35 mM petri dishes (50% monolayer) may be inoculated with 100 .mu.L. of the viral suspension, and supernatant fluids collected at 5 days post infection. These supernatant fluids will be used to inoculate cultures for large scale propagation of recombinant viruses

Expression of the encoded toxin gene by the recombinant baculovirus will be confirmed using a bioassay. LCMS, or antibodies. The presence of toxin activity in the recombinant viruses will be monitored in vivo. These assays involve comparison of biological activity of recombinant viruses to wild-type. Third instar larvae of H. virescens are infected orally by consumption of diet that contains test and control viruses and the larvae monitored for behavioral changes and mortality.

Isolated plugs of a standard insect diet are inoculated with approximately 5000 PIBs of each virus. Individual larvae. that have not fed for 12 h prior to beginning of the bioassay are allowed to consume the diet for 24 h. The larvae are transferred to individual wells in a diet tray and monitored for symptoms and mortality on a daily basis (Zlotkin et al. (1991) Biochimie (Paris) 53:1073 1078).
 


Claim 1 of 11 Claims

1. An isolated polynucleotide comprising a) a nucleotide sequence encoding a potassium channel agonist having at least 95% sequence identity, based on the Clustal method of alignment, when compared to a polypeptide of SEQ ID NO:14; or b) a complement of the nucleotide sequence of a), wherein the complement and the nucleotide sequence have the same number of nucleotides and are 100% complementary.
 

 

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