Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) causes high mortality in neonatal piglets; however, effective and safe vaccines are still not available. We hypothesized that inactivation of the 2'-O-methyltransferase (2'-O-MTase) activity of nsp16 and the endocytosis signal of the spike protein attenuates PEDV yet retains its immunogenicity in pigs. We generated a recombinant PEDV, KDKE4A, with quadruple alanine substitutions in the catalytic tetrad of the 2'-O-MTase using a virulent infectious cDNA clone, icPC22A, as the backbone. Next, we constructed another mutant, KDKE4A-SYA, by abolishing the endocytosis signal of the spike protein of KDKE4A. Compared with icPC22A, the KDKE4A and KDKE4A-SYA mutants replicated less efficiently in vitro but induced stronger type I and type III interferon responses. The pathogenesis and immunogenicities of the mutants were evaluated in gnotobiotic piglets. The virulence of KDKE4A-SYA and KDKE4A was significantly reduced compared with that of icPC22A. Mortality rates were 100%, 17%, and 0% in the icPC22A-, KDKE4A-, and KDKE4A-SYA-inoculated groups, respectively. At 21 days postinoculation (dpi), all surviving pigs were challenged orally with a high dose of icPC22A. The KDKE4A-SYA- and KDKE4A-inoculated pigs were protected from the challenge, because no KDKE4A-SYA- and one KDKE4A-inoculated pig developed diarrhea whereas all the pigs in the mock-inoculated group had severe diarrhea, and 33% of them died. Furthermore, we serially passaged the KDKE4A-SYA mutant in pigs three times and did not find any reversion of the introduced mutations. The data suggest that KDKE4A-SYA may be a PEDV vaccine candidate. IMPORTANCE PEDV is the most economically important porcine enteric viral pathogen and has caused immense economic losses in the pork industries in many countries. Effective and safe vaccines are desperately required but still not available. 2'-O-MTase (nsp16) is highly conserved among coronaviruses (CoVs), and the inactivation of nsp16 in live attenuated vaccines has been attempted for several betacoronaviruses. We show that inactivation of both 2'-O-MTase and the endocytosis signal of the spike protein is an approach to designing a promising live attenuated vaccine for PEDV. The in vivo passaging data also validated the stability of the KDKE4A-SYA mutant. KDKE4A-SYA warrants further evaluation in sows and their piglets and may be used as a platform for further optimization. Our findings further confirmed that nsp16 can be a universal target for CoV vaccine development and will aid in the development of vaccines against other emerging CoVs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science