Genetic and phenotypic variation of foot-and-mouth disease virus during serial passages in a natural host

C. Carrillo, Z. Lu, M. V. Borca, A. Vagnozzi, G. F. Kutish, D. L. Rock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV), like other RNA viruses, exhibits high mutation rates during replication that have been suggested to be of adaptive value. However, even though genetic variation in RNA viruses and, more specifically, FMDV has been extensively examined during virus replication in a wide variety of in vitro cell cultures, very little is known regarding the generation and effects of genetic variability of virus replication in the natural host under experimental conditions and no genetic data are available regarding the effects of serial passage in natural hosts. Here, we present the results of 20 serial contact transmissions of the highly pathogenic, pig-adapted O Taiwan 97 (O Tw97) isolate of FMDV in swine. We examined the virus genomic consensus sequences for a total of 37 full-length viral genomes recovered from 20 in vivo passages. The characteristics and distributions of changes in the sequences during the series of pig infections were analyzed in comparison to the O Tw97 genomes recovered from serially infected BHK-21 cell cultures. Unexpectedly, a significant reduction of virulence upon pig passages was observed, and finally, interruption of the viral transmission chain occurred after the 14th pig passage (T14). Virus was, however, isolated from the tonsils and nasal swabs of the asymptomatic T15 pigs at 26 days postcontact, consistent with a natural establishment of the carrier state previously described only for ruminants. Surprisingly, the region encoding the capsid protein VP1 (1D) did not show amino acid changes during in vivo passages. These data demonstrate that contact transmission of FMDV O Tw97 in pigs mimics the fitness loss induced by the bottleneck effect, which was previously observed by others during plaque-to-plaque FMDV passage in vitro, suggesting that unknown mechanisms of virulence recovery might be necessary during the evolution and perpetuation of FMDV in nature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11341-11351
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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