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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

An amino acid substitution in the coding region of the E2 glycoprotein adapts Ross River virus to utilize heparan sulfate as an attachment moiety.

Passage of Ross River virus strain NB5092 in avian cells has been previously shown to select for virus variants that have enhanced replication in these cells. Sequencing of these variants identified two independent sites that might be responsible for the phenotype. We now demonstrate, using a molecular cDNA clone of the wild-type T48 strain, that an amino acid substitution at residue 218 in the E2 glycoprotein can account for the phenotype. Substitutions that replaced the wild-type asparagine with basic residues had enhanced replication in avian cells while acidic or neutral residues had little or no observable effect. Ross River virus mutants that had increased replication in avian cells also grew better in BHK cells than the wild-type virus, whereas the remaining mutants were unaffected in growth. Replication in both BHK and avian cells of Ross River virus mutants N218K and N218R was inhibited by the presence of heparin or by the pretreatment of the cells with heparinase. Binding of the mutants, but not of the wild type, to a heparin-Sepharose column produced binding comparable to that of Sindbis virus, which has previously been shown to bind heparin. Replication of these mutants was also adversely affected when they were grown in a CHO cell line that was deficient in heparan sulfate production. These results demonstrate that amino acid 218 of the E2 glycoprotein can be modified to create an heparan sulfate binding site and this modification expands the host range of Ross River virus in cultured cells to cells of avian origin.[1]


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