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Virology. 2001 Sep 30;288(2):192-202.

Foot-and-mouth disease virus lacking the VP1 G-H loop: the mutant spectrum uncovers interactions among antigenic sites for fitness gain.

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Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa (CSIC-UAM), Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain.


The Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) triplet found in the G-H loop of capsid protein VP1 of foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) is critically involved in the interaction of FMDV with integrin receptors and with neutralizing antibodies. Multiplication of FMDV C-S8c1 in baby hamster kidney 21 (BHK-21) cells selected variant viruses exploiting alternative mechanisms of cell recognition that rendered the RGD integrin-binding triplet dispensable for infectivity. By constructing chimeric viruses, we show that dispensability of the RGD in these variant FMDVs can be extended to surrounding amino acid residues. Replacement of eight amino acid residues within the G-H loop of VP1 by an unrelated FLAG marker yielded infectious virus. Evolution of FLAG-containing viruses in BHK-21 cells generated complex quasispecies in which individual mutants included amino acid replacements at other antigenic sites of FMDV. Inclusion of such replacements in the parental FLAG clone resulted in an increase of relative fitness of the viruses. These results suggest structural or functional connections between antigenic sites of FMDV and underscore the value of mutant spectrum analysis for the identification of fitness-promoting genetic modifications in viral populations. The possibility of producing viable viruses lacking antigenic site A may find application in the design of new anti-FMD vaccines.

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