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Virology. 1997 Oct 27;237(2):378-88.

Identification of a consensus mutation in M protein of vesicular stomatitis virus from persistently infected cells that affects inhibition of host-directed gene expression.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Bowman Gray School of Medicine of Wake Forest University, Medical Center Blvd., Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157, USA.


In addition to its function in virus assembly, the viral matrix (M) protein of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) inhibits host-directed gene expression. The goal of this study was to determine whether sequence changes in M protein contribute to a reduced shut off of host gene expression in cells persistently infected with VSV. Viruses isolated from L cells persistently infected with VSV inhibited host RNA synthesis more slowly than wild-type (wt) VSV. M genes of the persistent viral population were cloned and sequenced. One mutation, an N to D change at position 163 of the protein sequence (N163D), was common to all the molecular clones. The N163D M protein was synthesized from transfected mRNA at a rate that was 30% of that of wt M protein, but was turned over at a rate that was similar to that of wt M protein. Transfection of mRNA encoding N163D M protein inhibited expression of a cotransfected target gene encoding chloramphenicol acetyl transferase (CAT), but the inhibition was 6 to 10 times less effective than transfection of equivalent amounts of wt M mRNA. This difference could not be accounted for by differences in translation of CAT mRNA. Thus, when the differences in M protein expression were taken into account, N163D M protein was 2 to 3 times less effective than wt M protein in the inhibition of host-directed gene expression, similar to the differences in host transcription observed in virus-infected cells. Point mutations in addition to the N163D mutation were found in about half of the M gene molecular clones. The M gene of an independently isolated molecular clone, N163D.2, contained two additional point mutations in its carboxy terminal region. N163D.2 M protein was highly defective in inhibition of host gene expression and was turned over more rapidly than wt M protein. These results support the idea that M gene mutations contribute to a reduced cytopathic effect in cells persistently infected with VSV.

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