Attenuation of Sindbis virus neurovirulence by using defined mutations in nontranslated regions of the genome RNA

R. J. Kuhn, D. E. Griffin, H. Zhang, H. G.M. Niesters, J. H. Strauss

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48 Scopus citations


We examined a panel of Sindbis virus mutants containing defined mutations in the 5' nontranslated region of the genome RNA, in the 3' nontranslated region, or in both for their growth in cultured cells and virulence in newborn mice. In cultured cells, these viruses all had defects in RNA synthesis and displayed a wide range of growth rates. The growth properties of the mutants were often very different in mouse cells from those in chicken cells or in mosquito cells. We hypothesize that host factors, presumably proteins, interact with these nontranslated regions to promote viral replication and that the mammalian protein and the chicken or mosquito protein are sufficiently divergent that alterations in the viral RNA sequence can affect the interactions with these different host proteins in different ways. Some of the mutants were temperature sensitive for plaque formation, whereas one mutant was slightly cold sensitive in its growth in chicken cells. Upon inoculation into mice, viruses that grew well in cultured mouse cells retained their virulence, but mice that succumbed usually had extended survival times. One virulent mutant that grew slightly less well in cultured mouse cells than did the parental virus produced eight times as much virus in mouse brain following intracerebral inoculation, suggesting that changes in these regulatory regions may have tissue-specific as well as host-specific effects. Viruses that were severely crippled in their growth in mouse cells in culture were usually, but not always, attenuated in their virulence. In particular, temperature sensitivity was correlated with attenuation. The effect of two mutations was found to be cumulative, and double mutants that contained mutations in both the 5' and 3' nontranslated regions were more attenuated than was either single mutant. Three of four double mutants tested were severely crippled for virus production in cultured cells and were avirulent for mice, even when inoculated intracerebrally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7121-7127
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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