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Isolation and Characterization of Noncytopathic Pestivirus Mutants Reveals a Role for Nonstructural Protein NS4B in Viral Cytopathogenicity

By Lin Qu, Laura K. McMullan and Charles M. Rice

Abstract

Isolates of bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV), the prototype pestivirus, are divided into cytopathic (cp) and noncytopathic (ncp) biotypes according to their effect on cultured cells. The cp viruses also differ from ncp viruses by the production of viral nonstructural protein NS3. However, the mechanism by which cp viruses induce cytopathic effect in cell culture remains unknown. Here we used a genetic approach to isolate ncp variants that arose from a cp virus at low frequency. A bicistronic BVDV (cp strain NADL) was created that expressed puromycin acetyltransferase as a dominant selectable marker. This bicistronic virus exhibited slightly slower growth kinetics and smaller plaques than NADL but remained cp. A number of independent ncp variants were isolated by puromycin selection. Remarkably, these ncp variants produced NS3 and viral RNA at levels comparable to those of the cp parent. Sequence analyses uncovered no change in NS3, but for all ncp variants a Y2441C substitution at residue 15 of NS4B was found. Introduction of the Y2441C substitution into the NADL or bicistronic cp viruses reconstituted the ncp phenotype. Y2441 is highly conserved among pestiviruses and is located in a region of NS4B predicted to be on the cytosolic side of the endoplasmic reticulum membrane. Other engineered substitutions for Y2441 also affected viral cytopathogenicity and viability, with Y2441V being cp, Y2441A being ncp, and Y2441D rendering the virus unable to replicate. The ncp substitutions for Y2441 resulted in slightly increased levels of NS2-3 relative to NS3. We also showed that NS3, NS4B, and NS5A could be chemically cross-linked in NADL-infected cells, indicating that they are associated as components of a multiprotein complex. Although the mechanism remains to be elucidated, these results demonstrate that mutations in NS4B can attenuate BVDV cytopathogenicity despite NS3 production

Topics: Virus-Cell Interactions
Publisher: American Society for Microbiology
Year: 2001
DOI identifier: 10.1128/JVI.75.22.10651-10662.2001
OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:114647
Provided by: PubMed Central
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