We developed RNA probes for the identification of poliovirus isolates by blot hybridization. Two sets of vaccine strain-specific probes were prepared. They complemented variable genomic domains within (i) the 5'-untranslated region and (ii) the amino-terminal codons of VP1. An enterovirus group probe (EV/5UT) matching highly conserved 5'-untranslated region sequences was used to estimate the quantities of poliovirus (or enterovirus) RNA in the samples. Poliovirus sequences amplified from Sabin strain virion RNA templates by PCR were inserted into the pUC18 plasmid vector. The antisense PCR primer for each probe set contained sequences encoding a T7 promoter. Hybrids were detected by a sensitive nonisotopic method. RNA probes were labeled by incorporation of digoxigenin-uridylate into the transcripts. The binding of probe to immobilized poliovirus RNAs was visualized by hydrolysis of the chemiluminescent substrate 4-methoxy-4-(3-phosphate-phenyl)-spiro-(1,2-dioxetane-3,2'-adamant ane) catalyzed by alkaline phosphatase conjugated to anti-digoxigenin (Fab) fragments. The specificities of the probes were evaluated with a panel of poliovirus isolates that had previously been characterized by sequence analysis. The RNAs of vaccine-related isolates hybridized with the appropriate probe sets. Wild polioviruses representing a broad spectrum of contemporary genotypes were recognized by the inabilities of their genomes to form stable hybrids with the Sabin strain-specific probes
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