► Ligation of CTP with GP64 enhances baculovirus transduction into mammalian cells. ► Fusion of PTD with VP39 enhances baculovirus transduction into mammalian cells. ► CTP and PTD-carrying viruses improve the transduction of co-transduced baculoviruses. ► Virus entry and gene expression can be separate events in different cell types.
The baculovirus group of insect viruses is widely used for foreign gene introduction into mammalian cells for gene expression and protein production; however, the efficiency of baculovirus entry into mammalian cells is in general still low. In this study, two recombinant baculoviruses were engineered and their ability to improve viral entry was examined: (1) cytoplasmic transduction peptide (CTP) was fused with baculovirus envelope protein, GP64, to produce a cytoplasmic membrane penetrating baculovirus (vE-CTP); and (2) the protein transduction domain (PTD) of HIV TAT protein was fused with the baculovirus capsid protein VP39 to form a nuclear membrane penetrating baculovirus (vE-PTD). Transduction experiments showed that both viruses had better transduction efficiency than vE, a control virus that only expresses EGFP in mammalian cells. Interestingly, vE-CTP and vE-PTD were also able to improve the transduction efficiency of a co-transduced baculovirus, resulting in higher levels of gene expression. Our results have described new routes to further enhance the development of baculovirus as a tool for gene delivery into mammalian cells.