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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Nov 16;101(46):16328-32. Epub 2004 Nov 1.

Identification of viral genomic elements responsible for rabies virus neuroinvasiveness.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Thomas Jefferson University, 1020 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.


Attenuated tissue culture-adapted and natural street rabies virus (RV) strains differ greatly in their neuroinvasiveness. To identify the elements responsible for the ability of an RV to enter the CNS from a peripheral site and to cause lethal neurological disease, we constructed a full-length cDNA clone of silver-haired bat-associated RV (SHBRV) strain 18 and exchanged the genes encoding RV proteins and genomic sequences of this highly neuroinvasive RV strain with those of a highly attenuated nonneuroinvasive RV vaccine strain (SN0). Analysis of the recombinant RV (SB0), which was recovered from SHBRV-18 cDNA, indicated that this RV is phenotypically indistinguishable from WT SHBRV-18. Characterization of the chimeric viruses revealed that in addition to the RV glycoprotein, which plays a predominant role in the ability of an RV to invade the CNS from a peripheral site, viral elements such as the trailer sequence, the RV polymerase, and the pseudogene contribute to RV neuroinvasiveness. Analyses also revealed that neuroinvasiveness of an RV correlates inversely with the time necessary for internalization of RV virions and with the capacity of the virus to grow in neuroblastoma cells.

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