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Virus Res. 1996 Jun;42(1-2):11-25.

Sequence comparisons of A/AA/6/60 influenza viruses: mutations which may contribute to attenuation.

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Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109, USA.


Influenza virus infection is a worldwide public health threat. Cold-adaptation was used to develop a vaccine line (ca A/AA/6/60 H2N2) which promised to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with influenza and to serve as a model for other live virus vaccines. This study establishes that two distinct lines of wt A/AA/6/60 viruses exist with different phenotypic and genotypic characteristics. The two virus lines have the same parent but different passage histories. The first line is both temperature sensitive (ts) and attenuated in ferrets and the second line (after multiple passages in chick kidney cells, eggs and mice) is non-ts and virulent in ferrets. Both lines of viruses have been further differentiated by sequence analysis. We have identified point mutations common to all virulent viruses but absent from the attenuated viruses. This was accomplished by comparing the nucleotide sequences of the six internal genes in three different attenuated passages of A/AA/6/60 with those of five different virulent passages of the same virus. The corresponding nucleotides of the attenuated viruses, therefore, represent candidate attenuating lesions: 6 in the basic polymerase genes (5 in PB1, 1 in PB2), 2 in the acidic polymerase gene (PA), 1 in the matrix (M) gene, 2 in the non-structural (NS) gene, and none in the nucleoprotein (NP) gene. Two of the 5 attenuating lesions in PB1 are silent; 1/2 in PA is silent; and 1/2 in NS is silent. Further changes which might be identified by comparing nucleotide and amino acid sequences of the A/AA/6/60 viruses with those of other influenza viruses may also contribute to the attenuation of the ca virus. Our study identifies nucleotides which more precisely define virulence for this virus and suggests that growth of the virus at low temperature may have preserved a non-virulent virus population rather than attenuating a virulent one.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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