Using a Defective-Interfering RNA System to Express the HE Protein of Mouse Hepatitis Virus for Studying Viral Pathogenesis
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We have developed a defective-interfering (DI) RNA of mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) as a vector for expressing a variety of cellular and viral genes including the chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT), hemagglutinin’esterase (HE), and gamma interferon. Here, we used the HE-expressing DI RNA for examining the role of HE protein in viral pathogenesis. The pseudorecombinant virus containing an expressed HE protein was generated by infecting cells with MHV-A59, which does not express HE, and transfecting the in vitro-transcribed DI RNA containing the HE gene. These pseudorecombinant viruses (DE-HE A59) were then inoculated intracerebrally into mice. Viruses recovered from cells infected with A59 and transfected with DI RNA expressing the CAT gene (DE-CAT A59) were used as a control. At various time points after inoculation, mice were observed for clinical symptoms. Tissues (brains and livers) were obtained for determining the replication of DI RNA by RT-PCR, virus replication by plaque assay, antigen expression by immunohistochemistry, and pathological changes. Results showed that all mice infected with DE-CAT A59 succumbed to infection by 9 days postinfection (d p.i). These data are identical to the pathogenesis of the parental A59 virus, demonstrating that inclusion of the DI RNA did not by itself alter pathogenesis. In contrast, only 40% of mice infected with DE-HE A59 succumbed to infection. The subgenomic mRNAs transcribed from the DI vector were detected at 1 and 2 d p.i. but not at subsequent time points, indicating that the genes in the DI vector were expressed only at an early stage of viral infection. No significant difference in virus replication in the brains was detected between these two groups of mice, suggesting that virus replication in brains was not affected by the expression of the HE. Histopathological examination showed only a small increase in the extent of inflammatory cell infiltration and reduced viral antigen in the mice infected with DE-HE A59. There was no difference in virus replication in the livers at 2 and 4 d p.i., but a 3 log10 reduction was detected in the livers of mice infected with DE-HE A59 at 6 d p.i. Histological examination showed a significant reduction in viral antigen, inflammation and necrosis in mice infected with DE-HE A59. These results indicate that the expression of HE from the DI vector altered the viral pathogenesis. This study thus demonstrates the usefulness of this system in studying the role of viral or cellular genes expressed locally at the sites of viral infection in viral pathogenesis.
KeywordsVirus Titer Viral Antigen Plaque Form Unit Helper Virus Viral Pathogenesis
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