A molecular genetic approach to the study of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus pathogenesis
Viral pathogenesis can be described as a series of steps, analogous to a biochemical pathway, whose endpoint is disease of the infected host. Distinct viral functions may be critical at each required step. Our genetic approach is to use Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEE) mutants blocked at different steps to delineate the process of pathogenesis. A full-length cDNA clone of a virulent strain of VEE was used as a template for in vitro mutagenesis to produce attenuated single-site mutants. The spread of molecularly cloned parent or mutant viruses in the mouse was monitored by infectivity, immunocytochemistry, in situ hybridization and histopathology. Virulent VEE spread through the lymphatic system, produced viremia and replicated in several visceral organs. As virus was being cleared from these sites, it began to appear in the brain, frequently beginning in the olfactory tracts. A single-site mutant in the E2 glycoprotein appeared to block pathogenesis at a very early step, and required a reversion mutation to spread beyond the site of inoculation. The feasibility of combining attenuating mutations to produce a stable VEE vaccine strain has been demonstrated using three E2 mutations.
KeywordsEquine Infectious Anemia Virus Popliteal Lymph Node Sindbis Virus Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Virus Molecular Genetic Approach
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