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J Virol. 2007 Feb;81(3):1372-8. Epub 2006 Nov 15.

Intraspecies host specificity of a single-stranded RNA virus infecting a marine photosynthetic protist is determined at the early steps of infection.

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  • 1National Research Institute of Fisheries and Environment of Inland Sea, Fisheries Research Agency, 2-17-5 Maruishi, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima 739-0452, Japan.


Viruses are extremely abundant in seawater and are believed to be significant pathogens to photosynthetic protists (microalgae). Recently, several novel RNA viruses were found to infect marine photosynthetic protists; one of them is HcRNAV, which infects Heterocapsa circularisquama (Dinophyceae). There are two distinct ecotypes of HcRNAV with complementary intraspecies host ranges. Nucleotide sequence comparison between them revealed remarkable differences in the coat protein coding gene resulting in a high frequency of amino acid substitutions. However, the detailed mechanism supporting this intraspecies host specificity is still unknown. In this study, virus inoculation experiments were conducted with compatible and incompatible host-virus combinations to investigate the mechanism determining intraspecies host specificity. Cells were infected by adding a virus suspension directly to a host culture or by transfecting viral RNA into host cells by particle bombardment. Virus propagation was monitored by Northern blot analysis with a negative-strand-specific RNA probe, transmission electron microscopy, and a cell lysis assay. With compatible host-virus combinations, propagation of infectious progeny occurred regardless of the inoculation method used. When incompatible combinations were used, direct addition of a virus suspension did not even result in viral RNA replication, while in host cells transfected with viral RNA, infective progeny virus particles with a host range encoded by the imported viral RNA were propagated. This indicates that the intraspecies host specificity of HcRNAV is determined by the upstream events of virus infection. This is the first report describing the reproductive steps of an RNA virus infecting a photosynthetic protist at the molecular level.

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