Gene Rearrangement Attenuates Expression and Lethality of a Nonsegmented Negative Strand RNA Virus
The nonsegmented negative strand RNA viruses comprise hundreds of human, animal, insect, and plant pathogens. Gene expression of these viruses is controlled by the highly conserved order of genes relative to the single transcriptional promoter. We utilized this regulatory mechanism to alter gene expression levels of vesicular stomatitis virus by rearranging the gene order. This report documents that gene expression levels and the viral phenotype can be manipulated in a predictable manner. Translocation of the promoter-proximal nucleocapsid protein gene N, whose product is required stoichiometrically for genome replication, to successive positions down the genome reduced N mRNA and protein expression in a stepwise manner. The reduction in N gene expression resulted in a stepwise decrease in genomic RNA replication. Translocation of the N gene also attenuated the viruses to increasing extents for replication in cultured cells and for lethality in mice, without compromising their ability to elicit protective immunity. Because monopartite negative strand RNA viruses have not been reported to undergo homologous recombination, gene rearrangement should be irreversible and may provide a rational strategy for developing stably attenuated live vaccines against this type of virus.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
- Pub Date:
- March 1998