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J Gen Virol. 2011 Dec;92(Pt 12):2879-88. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.037648-0. Epub 2011 Aug 31.

Replication-incompetent influenza A viruses that stably express a foreign gene.

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Department of Special Pathogens, International Research Center for Infectious Diseases, Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo, Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan.


A biologically contained influenza A virus that stably expresses a foreign gene can be effectively traced, used to generate a novel multivalent vaccine and have its replication easily assessed, all while satisfying safety concerns regarding pathogenicity or reversion. This study generated a PB2-knockout (PB2-KO) influenza virus that harboured the GFP reporter gene in the coding region of its PB2 viral RNA (vRNA). Replication of the PB2-KO virus was restricted to a cell line stably expressing the PB2 protein. The GFP gene-encoding PB2 vRNA was stably incorporated into progeny viruses during replication in PB2-expressing cells. The GFP gene was expressed in virus-infected cells with no evidence of recombination between the recombinant PB2 vRNA and the PB2 protein mRNA. Furthermore, other reporter genes and the haemagglutinin and neuraminidase genes of different virus strains were accommodated by the PB2-KO virus. Finally, the PB2-KO virus was used to establish an improved assay to screen neutralizing antibodies against influenza viruses by using reporter gene expression as an indicator of virus infection rather than by observing cytopathic effect. These results indicate that the PB2-KO virus has the potential to be a valuable tool for basic and applied influenza virus research.

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