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Virology. 2006 Jun 5;349(2):382-95. Epub 2006 Feb 28.

Differential roles for the C-terminal hexapeptide domains of NS2 splice variants during MVM infection of murine cells.

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Graduate Program in Microbiology, Yale University, 333 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.


The MVM NS2 proteins are required for viral replication in cells of its normal murine host, but are dispensable in transformed human 324K cells. Alternate splicing at the minor intron controls synthesis of three forms of this protein, which differ in their C-terminal hexapeptides and in their relative abundance, with NS2P and NS2Y, the predominant isoforms, being expressed at a 5:1 ratio. Mutant genomes were constructed with premature termination codons in the C-terminal exons of either NS2P or NS2Y, which resulted in their failure to accumulate in vivo. To modulate their expression levels, we also introduced a mutation at the putative splice branch point of the large intron, dubbed NS2(lo), that reduced total NS2 expression in murine A9 cells such that NS2P accumulated to approximately half the level normally seen for NS2Y. All mutants replicated productively in human 324K cells. In A9 cells, NS2Y(-) mutants replicated like wildtype, and the NS2(lo) mutants expressed NS1 and replicated duplex viral DNA like wildtype, although their progeny single-strand DNA synthesis was reduced. However, while NS2P(-) and NS2-null viruses initiated infection efficiently in A9 cells, they gave diminished NS1 levels, and viral macromolecular synthesis appeared to become paralyzed shortly after the onset of viral duplex DNA amplification, such that no progeny single-strand DNA could be detected. Thus, the NS2P isoform, even when expressed at a level lower than that of NS2Y, performs a critical role in infection of A9 cells that cannot be accomplished by the NS2Y isoform alone.

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