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J Virol. 2011 Apr;85(8):3905-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02372-10. Epub 2011 Feb 2.

Key genomic changes necessary for an in vivo lethal mouse marburgvirus variant selection process.

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USAMRIID, Virology Division, 1425 Porter Street, Frederick, MD 21702, USA.


Marburgvirus (MARV) infections are generally lethal in humans and nonhuman primates but require in vivo lethal mouse variant selection by the serial transfer (passage) of the nonlethal virus into naïve mice to propagate a lethal infection. The passage of progenitor (wild-type) MARV or Ravn virus (RAVV) from infected scid BALB/c mouse liver homogenates into immunocompetent BALB/c mice results in the selection of lethal mouse viruses from within the quasispecies sufficient to establish lethality in immunocompetent mice. Genomic analysis in conjunction with the passage history of each mutation detailed the altered primary and secondary structures of the viral genomic RNA throughout the process. Key findings included the following: (i) a VP40:D184N mutation previously identified in the lethal guinea pig MARV genome was the first mutation to occur during the passage of both the MARV and RAVV variants; (ii) there was biased hypermutagenesis in the RAVV variant genome; (iii) there were two identical mutations in lethal mouse MARV and RAVV variants, VP40:Y19H in the PPPY motif and VP40:D184N in a loop structure between the two VP40 domains; (iv) the passage of wild-type MARV and RAVV in mice resulted in the selection of viral variants from among the quasispecies with different genotypes than those of the wild-type viruses; and (v) a lethal mouse RAVV variant had different tissue tropisms distinct from those of its wild-type virus. These studies provide insights into how marburgviruses manipulate the host for enzymes, metabolites, translation regulators, and effectors of the innate immune response to serve as potential viral countermeasures.

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