Novel swine virulence determinant in the left variable region of the African swine fever virus genome

J. G. Neilan, L. Zsak, Z. Lu, G. F. Kutish, C. L. Afonso, D. L. Rock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previously we have shown that the African swine fever virus (ASFV) NL gene deletion mutant E70δNL is attenuated in pigs. Our recent observations that NL gene deletion mutants of two additional pathogenic ASFV isolates, Malawi Lil-20/1 and Pr4, remained highly virulent in swine (100% mortality) suggested that these isolates encoded an additional virulence determinant(s) that was absent from E70. To map this putative virulence determinant, in vivo marker rescue experiments were performed by inoculating swine with infection-transfection lysates containing E70 NL deletion mutant virus (E70δNL) and cosmid DNA clones from the Malawi NL gene deletion mutant (MaIδNL). A cosmid clone representing the left-hand 38-kb region (map units 0.05 to 0.26) of the MaIδNL genome was capable of restoring full virulence to E70δNL. Southern blot analysis of recovered virulent viruses confirmed that they were recombinant E70δNL genomes containing a 23-to 28-kb DNA fragment of the Malawi genome. These recombinants exhibited an unaltered MaIδNL disease and virulence phenotype when inoculated into swine. Additional in vivo marker rescue experiments identified a 20-kb fragment, encoding members of multigene families (MGF) 360 and 530, as being capable of fully restoring virulence to E70δNL. Comparative nucleotide sequence analysis of the left variable region of the E70δNL and Malawi Lil-20/1 genomes identified an 8-kb deletion in the E70δNL isolate which resulted in the deletion and/or truncation of three MGF 360 genes and four MGF 530 genes. A recombinant MaIδNL deletion mutant lacking three members of each MGF gene family was constructed and evaluated for virulence in swine. The mutant virus replicated normally in macrophage cell culture but was avirulent in swine. Together, these results indicate that a region within the left variable region of the ASFV genome containing the MGF 360 and 530 genes represents a previously unrecognized virulence determinant for domestic swine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3095-3104
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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