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J Mol Biol. 2007 Jun 15;369(4):985-1000. Epub 2007 Apr 1.

Insights into RNA virus mutant spectrum and lethal mutagenesis events: replicative interference and complementation by multiple point mutants.

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


RNA virus behavior can be influenced by interactions among viral genomes and their expression products within the mutant spectra of replicating viral quasispecies. Here, we report the extent of interference of specific capsid and polymerase mutants of foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) on replication of wild-type (wt) RNA. The capsid and polymerase mutants chosen for this analysis had been characterized biochemically and structurally. Upon co-electroporation of BHK-21 cells with wt RNA and a tenfold excess of mutant RNA, some mutants displayed strong interference (<10% of progeny production by wt RNA alone), while other mutants did not show detectable interference. The capacity to interfere required an excess of mutant RNA and was associated with intracellular replication, irrespective of the formation of infectious particles by the mutant virus. The extent of interference did not correlate with the known types and number of interactions involving the amino acid residue affected in each mutant. Synergistic interference was observed upon co-electroporation of wt RNA and mixtures of capsid and polymerase mutants. Interference was specific, in that the mutants did not affect expression of encephalomyocarditis virus RNA, and that a two nucleotide insertion mutant of FMDV expressing a truncated polymerase did not exert any detectable interference. The results support the lethal defection model for viral extinction by enhanced mutagenesis, and provide further evidence that the population behavior of highly variable viruses can be influenced strongly by the composition of the quasispecies mutant spectrum as a whole.

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