The D variant of encephalomyocarditis (EMC-D) virus causes diabetes in susceptible mice by direct cytolysis of pancreatic beta-cells. cDNA covering the major outer capsid protein (VP1) of the EMC-D virus was cloned into Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG). None of the SJL/J mice immunized with live recombinant BCG-VP1 (rBCG-VP1) became diabetic when challenged with the highly diabetogenic EMC-D virus, but the control mice inoculated with normal BCG developed diabetes during the same challenge. VP1-specific antibodies (including neutralizing antibodies) were markedly increased over time and reached the maximum titer at week 10 after a single immunization. The plateau of the titer lasted longer than 4 weeks. Mice and guinea pigs immunized with live rBCG-VP1 showed strong delayed-type hypersensitivity to the VP1 of the EMC-D virus. The preventive immunity still worked effectively 10 months after the primary immunization. At that time, the VP1-specific antibody was almost undetectable in the bloodstream, but a large number of VP1-specific lymphocytes was found in the spleen of the immunized mice. Our results show that live rBCG-VP1 elicits effective humoral and long-lasting cellular immune responses against EMC-D virus infection that results in the prevention of virus-induced diabetes in susceptible mice.

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