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Virology. 1998 Aug 1;247(2):232-9.

A single nucleotide substitution in the transcription start signal of the M2 gene of respiratory syncytial virus vaccine candidate cpts248/404 is the major determinant of the temperature-sensitive and attenuation phenotypes.

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Respiratory Viruses Section, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-0720, USA.


Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cpts248/404 is a live-attenuated, temperature-sensitive (ts) vaccine candidate derived from cole-passaged cpRSV by two rounds of chemical mutagenesis and biological selection. Previous sequence analysis showed that these two steps introduced three single nucleotide substitutions into the cpRSV parent. Two of these occurred with the coding sequence for the L protein, and each resulted in a single amino acid substitution: Gin-831-Leu (248 mutation) and Asp-1183-Glu (404-L mutation). The third mutation resulted in a nucleotide substitution at position 9 of the c/s-acting gene start signal of the M2 gene (404-M2 mutation). In the present study, the genetic basis of attenuation of cpts248/404 was defined by the introduction of each of these mutations (singly or in combination) into a full-length cDNA clone of cpRSV. Recombinant RSV derived from each mutant cDNA was analyzed to determine the contribution of each mutation to the ts and attenuation phenotypes of the virus. This analysis showed that the 248 mutation specifies a significant reduction of plaque formation at 38 degrees and is responsible for an intermediate level of attenuation in mice. In contrast, the 404-L mutation did not contribute to the ts or attenuation phenotype alone or in combination with other mutations and is thus an incidental change. unexpectedly, the 404-M2 mutation alone specified complete restriction of plaque formation at 37 degrees C an a high level of attenuation in mice. This indicates that the level of temperature sensitivity and attenuation of cpts248/404 can be attributed primarily to the 404-M2 mutation. Thus the cpts248/404 virus contains a set of ts and non-ts attenuating mutations, which likely accounts for its genetic stability. The recombinant version of this virus, rA2cp248/404, was phenotypically indistinguishable from cpts248/404 and represents a background into which additional mutations can be introduced as needed to obtain the desired level of attenuation for successful immunization of the very young human infant.

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