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Published March 2000 | Published
Journal Article Open

Adaptive mutations in Sindbis virus E2 and Ross River virus E1 that allow efficient budding of chimeric viruses


Alphavirus glycoproteins E2 and E1 form a heterodimer that is required for virus assembly. We have studied adaptive mutations in E2 of Sindbis virus (SIN) and E1 of Ross River virus (RR) that allow these two glycoproteins to interact more efficiently in a chimeric virus that has SIN E2 but RR E1. These mutations include K129E, K131E, and V237F in SIN E2 and S310F and C433R in RR E1. Although RR E1 and SIN E2 will form a chimeric heterodimer, the chimeric virus is almost nonviable, producing about 107 as much virus as SIN at 24 h and 105 as much after 48 h. Chimeras containing one adaptive change produced 3 to 20 times more virus than did the parental chimera, whereas chimeras with two changes produced 10 to 100 times more virus and chimeras containing three mutations produced yields that were 180 to 250 times better. None of the mutations had significant effects upon the parental wild-type viruses, however. Passage of the triple variants eight or nine times resulted in variants that produced virus rapidly and were capable of producing >108 PFU/ml of culture fluid within 24 h. These further-adapted variants possessed one or two additional mutations, including E2-V116K, E2-S110N, or E1-T65S. The RR E1-C433R mutation was studied in more detail. This Cys is located in the putative transmembrane domain of E1 and was shown to be palmitoylated. Mutation to Arg-433 resulted in loss of palmitoylation of E1. The positively charged arginine residue within the putative transmembrane domain of E1 would be expected to alter the conformation of this domain. These results suggest that interactions within the transmembrane region are important for the assembly of the E1/E2 heterodimer, as are regions of the ectodomains possibly identified by the locations of adaptive mutations in these regions. Further, the finding that four or five changes in the chimera allow virus production that approaches the levels seen with the parental SIN and exceeds that of the parental RR illustrates that the structure and function of SIN and RR E1s have been conserved during the 50% divergence in sequence that has occurred.

Additional Information

Copyright © 2000 American Society for Microbiology. Received 29 July 1999;accepted 13 December 1999. We are grateful to Edith M. Lenches for expert technical assistance and to Aaron Kuzin for performing some of the sequencing work. This work was supported by NIH grants AI 20612 and AI 10793.

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