Group B coxsackieviruses (CVB) cause numerous diseases, including myocarditis, pancreatitis, aseptic meningitis and possibly type 1 diabetes. To date, infectious cDNA copies of CVB type 3 (CVB3) genomes have all been derived from pathogenic virus strains. An infectious cDNA copy of the well-characterized, non-pathogenic CVB3 strain GA genome was cloned in order to facilitate mapping of the CVB genes that influence expression of a virulence phenotype. Comparison of the sequence of the parental CVB3/GA population, derived by direct RT-PCR-mediated sequence analysis, to that of the infectious CVB3/GA progeny genome demonstrated that an authentic copy was cloned; numerous differences were observed in coding and non-coding sequences relative to other CVB3 strains. Progeny CVB3/GA replicated similarly to the parental strain in three different cell cultures and was avirulent when inoculated into mice, causing neither pancreatitis nor myocarditis. Inoculation of mice with CVB3/GA protected mice completely against myocarditis and pancreatitis induced by cardiovirulent CVB3 challenge. The secondary structure predicted for the CVB3/GA domain II, a region within the 5′ non-translated region that is implicated as a key site affecting the expression of a cardiovirulent phenotype, differs from those predicted for cardiovirulent and pancreovirulent CVB3 strains. This is the first report characterizing a cloned CVB3 genome from an avirulent strain.
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