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Deletion mutants of VPg reveal new cytopathology determinants in a picornavirus

AuthorsArias, Armando ; Perales, Celia ; Escarmís, Cristina; Domingo, Esteban
Issue Date20-May-2010
PublisherPublic Library of Science
CitationPLoS ONE 5 (2010)
AbstractBackground: Success of a viral infection requires that each infected cell delivers a sufficient number of infectious particles to allow new rounds of infection. In picornaviruses, viral replication is initiated by the viral polymerase and a viral-coded protein, termed VPg, that primes RNA synthesis. Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) is exceptional among picornaviruses in that its genome encodes 3 copies of VPg. Why FMDV encodes three VPgs is unknown. Methodology and Principal Findings: We have constructed four mutant FMDVs that encode only one VPg: either VPg1, VPg3, or two chimeric versions containing part of VPg1 and VPg3. All mutants, except that encoding only VPg1, were replication-competent. Unexpectedly, despite being replication-competent, the mutants did not form plaques on BHK-21 cell monolayers. The one-VPg mutant FMDVs released lower amounts of encapsidated viral RNA to the extracellular environment than wild type FMDV, suggesting that deficient plaque formation was associated with insufficient release of infectious progeny. Mutant FMDVs subjected to serial passages in BHK-21 cells regained plaque-forming capacity without modification of the number of copies of VPg. Substitutions in non-structural proteins 2C, 3A and VPg were associated with restoration of plaque formation. Specifically, replacement R55W in 2C was repeatedly found in several mutant viruses that had regained competence in plaque development. The effect of R55W in 2C was to mediate an increase in the extracellular viral RNA release without a detectable increase of total viral RNA that correlated with an enhanced capacity to alter and detach BHK-21 cells from the monolayer, the first stage of cell killing. Conclusions: The results link the VPg copies in the FMDV genome with the cytopathology capacity of the virus, and have unveiled yet another function of 2C: modulation of picornavirus cell-to-cell transmission. Implications for picornaviruses pathogenesis are discussed. © 2010 Arias et al.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0010735
Identifiersdoi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010735
issn: 1932-6203
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