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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1991 Jun 15;88(12):5177-81.

An influenza A virus containing influenza B virus 5' and 3' noncoding regions on the neuraminidase gene is attenuated in mice.

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Department of Microbiology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029.


Influenza A and B viruses have not been shown to form reassortants. It had been assumed that the lack of genotypic mixing between influenza virus types reflected differences in polymerase and packaging specificity. In this study, we show that an influenza A virus polymerase transcribes and replicates a chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) gene flanked by the nontranslated sequences of an influenza B virus gene. Although the transcription level of this CAT gene was several times lower than that of a CAT gene flanked by the homologous nontranslated sequences of an influenza A virus, we proceeded to construct a chimeric type A/B influenza virus. Using recombinant DNA techniques, a chimeric neuraminidase gene was introduced into the genome of influenza A/WSN/33 virus. The hybrid influenza A/B virus gene contained the coding region of the A/WSN neuraminidase and the 3' and 5' nontranslated sequences of the nonstructural gene of influenza B/Lee virus. The resulting chimeric virus formed plaques in Madin-Darby bovine kidney cells but replicated more slowly and achieved lower titers than wild-type influenza A/WSN/33 virus. The chimeric virus was attenuated for mice as indicated by a 400-fold increase in its LD50. Interestingly, the virus was greatly restricted in replication in the upper respiratory tract and partially restricted in the lungs. Animals infected with the transfectant virus were highly resistant to influenza virus challenge. It appears that this chimeric virus has many of the properties desirable for a live attenuated virus vaccine.

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