To understand the role of tissue-specific adaptation and antibody-induced selectional pressures in the evolution of neurovirulent viruses, we analyzed three strains of Sindbis virus isolated from the brains of persistently infected scid mice and four strains of Sindbis virus isolated from the brains of scid mice with viral reactivation following immune serum treatment. For each viral isolate, we tested neurovirulence in weanling BALB/c mice and sequenced regions of the E2 and E1 envelope glycoprotein genes that are known to contain important determinants of Sindbis virus neurovirulence. One strain isolated from a persistently infected scid mouse and two strains isolated from scid mice with viral reactivation were neurovirulent, resulting in mortality in 80 to 100% of weanling BALB/c mice. All three neurovirulent strains contained an A→U change at nucleotide 8795, which predicts a Gln→His substitution at E2 amino acid position 55. No nucleotide changes were detected in the other sequenced regions of the E2 and E1 envelope glycoprotein genes or in the avirulent isolates. Our findings indicate that tissue-specific adaptations, rather than antibody-induced selectional pressures, are a critical determinant of the evolution of neurovirulent strains of Sindbis virus and provide evidence that E2 His-55 is an important neuroadaptive mutation that confers neurovirulence properties on Sindbis virus.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science