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Characterization of a variant virus selected in rat brains after infection by coronavirus mouse hepatitis virus JHM

Characterization of a variant virus selected in rat brains after infection by coronavirus mouse hepatitis virus JHM

Journal of Virology 54(2): 429-435

The intracerebral inoculation of Lewis rats with the murine coronavirus MHV-JHM leads in the majority of animals to acute encephalitis and death within 14 days. Viral RNAs isolated from the brains of animals 5 to 7 days after infection were compared by Northern blot analysis with the RNAs produced during the lytic infection of Sac(-) or DBT cells with wild-type MHV-JHM (wt virus). Reproducibly, the subgenomic mRNAs 2 and 3 but no other viral RNAs were significantly larger in the brain-derived material. All viruses isolated from infected brain material displayed and maintained this altered mRNA profile when cultivated in Sac(-) or DBT cells. A virus isolated from the infected brain material, MHV-JHM clone 2 (cl-2 virus), has been further characterized. This isolate grew in tissue culture and induced cytopathic effects comparable to those induced by wt virus. However, the mRNAs 2 and 3 produced in cl-2 virus-infected cells had molecular weights ca. 150,000 larger than those produced in cells infected with wt virus. There was no detectable difference in genome-sized RNA (mRNA 1) or subgenomic mRNAs 4, 5, 6, and 7 as determined by electrophoresis in agarose gels. T1-resistant oligonucleotide analysis of genomic RNA revealed one additional and one missing oligonucleotide in the fingerprint of cl-2 virus compared with wt virus. The oligonucleotide fingerprints of intracellular mRNA 3 were identical for both viruses. Pulse-labeling with [35S]methionine in the presence of tunicamycin showed that the primary translation product of mRNA 3, the E2 apoprotein, was ca. 15,000 larger in molecular weight in cl-2 virus-infected cells. These data show that viruses with larger mRNAs 2 and 3 (the latter encoding an altered E2 glycoprotein) are selected for multiplication in rat brains. Mechanisms for the generation of such variants and the possible nature of their selective advantage are considered.

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Accession: 004925839

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PMID: 2985806

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