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J Virol. 2003 Nov;77(22):12266-75.

Mutations in the vaccinia virus A33R and B5R envelope proteins that enhance release of extracellular virions and eliminate formation of actin-containing microvilli without preventing tyrosine phosphorylation of the A36R protein.

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  • 1Laboratory of Viral Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-0445, USA.


The spread of vaccinia virus in cell cultures is mediated by virions that adhere to the tips of specialized actin-containing microvilli and also by virions that are released into the medium. The use of a small plaque-forming A36R gene deletion mutant to select spontaneous second-site mutants exhibiting enhanced virus release was described previously. Two types of mutations were found: C-terminal truncations of the A33R envelope protein and a single amino acid substitution of the B5R envelope protein. In the present study, we transferred each type of mutation into a wild-type virus background in order to study their effects in vitro and in vivo. The two new mutants conserved the enhanced virus release properties of the original isolates; the A33R mutant produced considerably more extracellular virus than the B5R mutant. The extracellular virus particles contained the truncated A33R protein in one case and the mutated B5R protein in the other. Remarkably, both mutants failed to form actin tails and specialized microvilli, despite the presence of an intact A36R gene. The synthesis of the A36R protein as well as its physical association with the mutated or wild-type A33R protein was demonstrated. Moreover, the A36R protein was tyrosine phosphorylated, a step mediated by a membrane-associated Src kinase that regulates the nucleation of actin polymerization. The presence of large numbers of adherent virions on the cell surface argued against rapid dissociation as having a key role in preventing actin tail formation. Thus, the A33R and B5R proteins may be more directly involved in the formation or stabilization of actin tails than had been previously thought. When mice were inoculated intranasally, the A33R mutant was highly attenuated and the B5R mutant was mildly attenuated compared to wild-type virus. Enhanced virus release, therefore, did not compensate for the loss of actin tails and specialized microvilli.

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