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Pathogenesis of chimeric MHV4/MHV-A59 recombinant viruses: the murine coronavirus spike protein is a major determinant of neurovirulence



Pathogenesis of chimeric MHV4/MHV-A59 recombinant viruses: the murine coronavirus spike protein is a major determinant of neurovirulence



Journal of Virology 73(9): 7752-7760



The mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) spike glycoprotein, S, has been implicated as a major determinant of viral pathogenesis. In the absence of a full-length molecular clone, however, it has been difficult to address the role of individual viral genes in pathogenesis. By using targeted RNA recombination to introduce the S gene of MHV4, a highly neurovirulent strain, into the genome of MHV-A59, a mildly neurovirulent strain, we have been able to directly address the role of the S gene in neurovirulence. In cell culture, the recombinants containing the MHV4 S gene, S4R22 and S4R21, exhibited a small-plaque phenotype and replicated to low levels, similar to wild-type MHV4. Intracranial inoculation of C57BL/6 mice with S4R22 and S4R21 revealed a marked alteration in pathogenesis. Relative to wild-type control recombinant viruses (wtR13 and wtR9), containing the MHV-A59 S gene, the MHV4 S gene recombinants exhibited a dramatic increase in virulence and an increase in both viral antigen staining and inflammation in the central nervous system. There was not, however, an increase in the level of viral replication in the brain. These studies demonstrate that the MHV4 S gene alone is sufficient to confer a highly neurovirulent phenotype to a recombinant virus deriving the remainder of its genome from a mildly neurovirulent virus, MHV-A59. This definitively confirms previous findings, suggesting that the spike is a major determinant of pathogenesis.

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Accession: 011121058

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PMID: 10438865


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