To identify the rotavirus protein which mediates attachment to cells in culture, viral reassortants between the simian rotavirus strain RRV and the murine strains EHP and EW or between the simian strain SA-11 and the human strain DS-1 were isolated. These parental strains differ in the requirement for sialic acid to bind and infect cells in culture. Infectivity and binding assays with the parental and reassortant rotaviruses indicate that gene 4 encodes the rotavirus protein which mediates attachment to cells in culture for both sialic acid-dependent and -independent strains. Using ligated intestinal segments of newborn mice and reassortants obtained between the murine strain EW and RRV, we developed an in vivo infectivity assay. In this system, the infectivity of EW was not affected by prior treatment of the enterocytes with neuraminidase, while neuraminidase treatment reduced the infectivity of a reassortant carrying gene 4 from RRV on an EW background more than 80% relative to the controls. Thus, VP4 appears to function as the cell attachment protein in vivo as well as in vitro
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