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Baculovirus with Benefits: Expression System Advantages

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

As with all protein expression systems the baculovirus has its advantages and set-backs, the trade-off for high levels of expression, safety and posttranslational modifications is often time, with the baculovirus system being more labour intensive than simple bacterial methods. Here we cover the benefits of working with the baculovirus system in your lab.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away one scientist sought to bring balance to the force using the powerful baculovirus polyhedrin promoter for his own advantage. He replaced the coding sequences of the polyhedrin gene with one encoding human beta interferon. After infection with this new recombinant virus the cells started to produce large amounts of active human protein1.

Unfortunately, lab work is (often) not an interstellar adventure and mixing two or more components and shaking it vigorously rarely yields ground breaking results. Producing a recombinant baculovirus can be laborious and technically demanding, the system, however, offers many advantages over other traditional systems:

  1. Safety: Baculoviruses are non-pathogenic to droids, mammals and plants2.

  2. Size: Can accommodate large or multiple genes.

  3. Ease of scale up: Cell lines used to amplify the virus and express proteins grow well in suspension cultures allowing large-scale protein production in bioreactors.

  4. High levels of protein expression: The system uses a variety of efficient gene promoters for early and late gene expression.

  5. Posttranslational modifications: Proper protein folding, glycosylation, phosphorylation, acetylation and acylation.

Overall, despite the few disadvantages, the baculovirus system remains one of the most versatile and powerful eukaryotic vector systems for recombinant protein expression.

Next time we will discuss how to effectively produce recombinant baculoviruses and how the technology has developed from these early days.

To find out about the benefits of the flashBAC™ system click here.


1. Smith, G.E.; Summers, M.D. & Fraser, M.J. (1983). Production of human beta-interferon in insect cells infected with a baculovirus expression vector. Molecular and Cellular Biology3, 2156-2165.

2. Ignoffo, C.M. (1975) Baculoviruses for Insect Pest Control: Safety Considerations, Summers, M., Engler, R., Falcon, L.A. and Vail, P.V. (eds.), American Society for Microbiology, Washington, DC, p. 52.

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