Neuroadapted yellow fever virus 17D: genetic and biological characterization of a highly mouse-neurovirulent virus and its infectious molecular clone

T J Chambers, M Nickells
Journal of Virology 2001, 75 (22): 10912-22
A neuroadapted strain of yellow fever virus (YFV) 17D derived from a multiply mouse brain-passaged virus (Porterfield YF17D) was additionally passaged in SCID and normal mice. The virulence properties of this virus (SPYF) could be distinguished from nonneuroadapted virus (YF5.2iv, 17D infectious clone) by decreased average survival time in SCID mice after peripheral inoculation, decreased average survival time in normal adult mice after intracerebral inoculation, and occurrence of neuroinvasiveness in normal mice. SPYF exhibited more efficient growth in peripheral tissues of SCID mice than YF5.2iv, resulting in a more rapid accumulation of virus burden, but with low-titer viremia, at the time of fatal encephalitis. In cell culture, SPYF was less efficient in replication than YF5.2iv in all cell lines tested. The complete nucleotide sequence of SPYF revealed 29 nucleotide substitutions relative to YF5.2iv, and these were distributed throughout the genome. There were a total of 13 predicted amino acid substitutions, some of which correspond to known differences among the Asibi, French viscerotropic virus, French neurotropic vaccine, and YF17D vaccine strains. The envelope (E) protein contained five substitutions, within all three functional domains. Substitutions were also present in regions encoding the NS1, NS2A, NS4A, and NS5 proteins and in the 3' untranslated region (UTR). Construction of YFV harboring all of the identified coding nucleotide substitutions and those in the 3' UTR yielded a virus whose cell culture and pathogenic properties, particularly neurovirulence and neuroinvasiveness for SCID mice, generally resembled those of the original SPYF isolate. These findings implicate the E protein and possibly other regions of the genome as virulence determinants during pathogenesis of neuroadapted YF17D virus in mice. The determinants affect replication efficiency in both neural and extraneural tissues of the mouse and confer some limited host-range differences in cultured cells of nonmurine origin.

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