A DNA-launched reverse genetics system for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus reveals that homodimerization of the nucleocapsid protein is essential for virus infectivity

Changhee Lee, Jay G. Calvert, Siao Kun W. Welch, Dongwan Yoo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Reverse genetic systems were developed for a highly virulent 'atypical' porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV). The full-length genome of 15 395 nucleotides was assembled as a single cDNA clone and placed under either the prokaryotic T7 or eukaryotic CMV promoter. Transfection of cells with the RNA transcripts or the DNA clone induced cytopathic effects and produced infectious progeny. The reconstituted virus was stable and grew to the titer of the parental virus in cells. Upon infection, pigs produced clinical signs and lung pathology typical for PRRSV and induced viremia and specific antibodies. Previously, we showed that the PRRSV nucleocapsid (N) protein forms homodimers via both noncovalent and covalent interactions and that cysteine at position 23 is responsible for the covalent interaction. The functional significance of cysteines of N for PRRSV infectivity was assessed using the infectious cDNA clone. Each cysteine of N at positions 23, 75, and 90 was replaced with serine and the individual mutation was incorporated into the cDNA clone such that three independent cysteine mutants were constructed. When transfected, the wild type and C75S clones induced cytopathic effects and produced infectious virus with indistinguishable plaque morphology. In contrast, the C23S mutation completely abolished infectivity of the clone, indicating that C23-mediated N protein homodimerization plays a critical role in PRRSV infectivity. Unexpectedly, the C90S mutation also appeared to be lethal for virus infectivity. Genome replication and mRNA transcription were both positive for the replication-defective C23S and C90S mutants. The data suggest that, in addition to homodimerization, the PRRSV N protein may also undergo heterodimerization with another structural protein using cysteine 90 and that the N protein heterodimerization is essential for PRRSV infectivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-62
Number of pages16
JournalVirology
Volume331
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 5 2005
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Dimerization
  • Infectious clone
  • Nucleocapsid protein
  • PRRS
  • Reverse genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology

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