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Neutralization-resistant variants of a neurotropic coronavirus are generated by deletions within the amino-terminal half of the spike glycoprotein

Neutralization-resistant variants of a neurotropic coronavirus are generated by deletions within the amino-terminal half of the spike glycoprotein

Journal of Virology 64(2): 731-741

Neuroattenuated variants of mouse hepatitis virus type 4 (MHV-4) selected for resistance to neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (R.G. Dalziel, P.W. Lampert, P. J. Talbot, and M. J. Buchmeier, J. Virol. 59:463-471, 1986) were found to harbor large deletions in both mRNA 3 and its protein product, the 180-kilodalton viron spike (S) glycoprotein. By using antipeptide antibodies directed against selected portions of the chain, deletions were mapped to the middle of the amino-terminal S1 fragment, one of the two posttranslational cleavage products of S, and involved omission of 15 kilodaltons of protein. Deletion mutants could be selected only after multiple passage of virus through cultured cell lines; minimally passaged MHV-4 stocks contained putative point mutants selectable by neutralizing monoclonal antibodies but no deletions. Enhanced growth of deletion mutants relative to wild-type virus was observed in four cell lines used for virus propagation and was attributed to delayed and diminished cytopathic effects that allowed cultures to support virus production for prolonged periods. This hypothesis was reinforced by the finding that no selective advantage for the deletion mutants was observed in two cell lines resistant to virus-induced cytopathic effects. These results indicate that the passaging of MHV-4 in culture generates heterogeneity in S structure and eventually selects for rare neutralization-resistant deletion mutants with decreased virulence properties.

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Accession: 040795155

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PMID: 1688627

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