Genetic and phenotypic changes accompanying the emergence of epizootic subtype IC Venezuelan equine encephalitis viruses from an enzootic subtype ID progenitor.
Recent studies have indicated that epizootic Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) viruses can evolve from enzootic, subtype ID strains that circulate continuously in lowland tropical forests (A. M. Powers, M. S. Oberste, A. C. Brault, R. Rico-Hesse, S. M. Schmura, J. F. Smith, W. Kang, W. P. Sweeney, and S. C. Weaver, J. Virol. 71:6697-6705, 1997). To identify mutations associated with the phenotypic changes leading to epizootics, we sequenced the entire genomes of two subtype IC epizootic VEE virus strains isolated during a 1992-1993 Venezuelan outbreak and four sympatric, subtype ID enzootic strains closely related to the predicted epizootic progenitor. Analysis by maximum-parsimony phylogenetic methods revealed 25 nucleotide differences which were predicted to have accompanied the 1992 epizootic emergence; 7 of these encoded amino acid changes in the nsP1, nsP3, capsid, and E2 envelope glycoprotein, and 2 were mutations in the 3' untranslated genome region. Comparisons with the genomic sequences of IAB and other IC epizootic VEE virus strains revealed that only one of the seven amino acid changes associated with the 1992 emergence, a threonine-to-methionine change at position 360 of the nsP3 protein, accompanied another VEE virus emergence event. Two changes in the E2 envelope glycoprotein region believed to include the major antigenic determinants, both involving replacement of uncharged residues with arginine, are also candidates for epizootic determinants. (+info)
Role of interferon and interferon regulatory factors in early protection against Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus infection.
To investigate the role of type I interferon (IFN) and its regulatory transacting proteins, interferon regulatory factors (IRF-1 and IRF-2), in early protection against infection with virulent Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEE), we utilized mice with targeted mutations in the IFN-alpha/beta receptor, IRF-1, or IRF-2 genes. IFN-alpha/beta-receptor knockout mice are highly susceptible to peripheral infection with virulent or attenuated VEE, resulting in their death within 24 and 48 h, respectively. Treatment of normal macrophages with anti-IFN-alpha/beta antibody prior to and during infection with molecularly cloned virulent VEE resulted in increased VEE replication. However, treatment with high doses of IFN or IFN-inducing agents failed to alter percentage mortality or average survival times in mice challenged with a low dose of virulent VEE. In IRF-1 and IRF-2 knockout mice (IRF-1(-/-) and IRF-2(-/-)), the 100% protection against virulent VEE that is conferred by attenuated VEE within 24 h in control C57BL/6 mice was completely absent in IRF-2(-/-) mice, whereas 50% of IRF-1(-/-) mice were protected. IRF-2(-/-) mice were deficient in clearing VEE virus from the spleen and the brain compared to the heterozygous IRF-2(+/-) knockout or C57BL/6 (+/+) mice. Furthermore, a distinct pattern of histopathological changes was observed in brains of IRF-2(-/-) mice after VEE exposure. Taken together, these findings imply that the altered immune response in IRF-1 and IRF-2 knockout mice results in altered virus dissemination, altered virus clearance, and altered virus-induced pathology. Thus, type I interferon, as well as IRF-1 and IRF-2, appears to play an important and necessary role in the pathogenesis of, and protection against, VEE infection. (+info)
Geographic distribution of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus subtype IE genotypes in Central America and Mexico.
Phylogenetic analysis of 20 strains of Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) virus subtype IE isolated from 1961 to 1996 in Mexico and throughout Central America showed that VEE virus subtype IE was monophyletic with respect to other VEE virus subtypes. Nonetheless, there were at least three distinct geographically separated VEE virus IE genotypes: northwestern Panama, Pacific coast (Mexico/Guatemala), and Gulf/Caribbean coast (Mexico/Belize). Strains from the Caribbean coast of Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua may cluster with the Gulf/Caribbean genotype, but additional isolates from the region between Guatemala and Panama will be required to firmly establish their phylogenetic position. Viruses associated with two separate equine epizootics in Mexico in the 1990s were phylogenetically related to nonepizootic viruses from neighboring Guatemala and may represent the emergence or re-emergence of equine-virulent VEE virus subtype IE in Middle America. (+info)
Limited potential for mosquito transmission of genetically engineered, live-attenuated Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus vaccine candidates.
In an attempt to improve the current live-attenuated vaccine (TC-83) for Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE), specific mutations associated with attenuation of VEE virus in rodent models were identified. These mutations were inserted into full-length cDNA clones of the Trinidad donkey strain of VEE virus by site-directed mutagenesis, and isogenic virus strains with these mutations were recovered after transfection of baby hamster kidney cells with infectious RNA. We evaluated 10 of these strains for their ability to replicate in and be transmitted by Aedes taeniorhynchus, a natural vector of epizootic VEE virus. Two vaccine candidates, one containing a deletion of the PE2 furin cleavage site, the other a combination of three separate point mutations in the E2 glycoprotein, replicated in mosquitoes and were transmitted to hamsters significantly less efficiently than was either parental (wild type) VEE virus or TC-83 virus. Although the attenuated strains were transmitted to hamsters by mosquitoes, after intrathoracic inoculation, there was no evidence of reversion to a virulent phenotype. The mutations that resulted in less efficient replication in, or transmission by, mosquitoes should enhance vaccine safety and reduce the possibility of environmental spread to unintentional hosts. (+info)
Association of Tonate virus (subtype IIIB of the Venezuelan equine encephalitis complex) with encephalitis in a human.
Tonate virus, subtype IIIB of the Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) complex, was first isolated in 1973 in French Guiana, South America. However, very little is known about its pathogenicity; it was considered to be responsible for only mild dengue-like syndromes. In 1998, a 2-month-old boy living along the Oyapock river in French Guiana was hospitalized for fever and generalized status myoclonus, and despite treatment the patient died 72 h after admission. Testing showed the presence of IgM specific for viruses of the VEE complex. A sensitive seminested polymerase chain reaction derived from a previous study was developed to detect viruses from the VEE complex, since no virus could be recovered from clinical specimens cultured on mosquito cells or from intracerebral inoculation into newborn mice. The genome of a virus from the VEE complex was detected in postmortem brain biopsies, and Tonate virus was identified by direct sequencing. This is the first reported case of human encephalitis due to Tonate virus. (+info)
Role of dendritic cell targeting in Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus pathogenesis.
The initial steps of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEE) spread from inoculation in the skin to the draining lymph node have been characterized. By using green fluorescent protein and immunocytochemistry, dendritic cells in the draining lymph node were determined to be the primary target of VEE infection in the first 48 h following inoculation. VEE viral replicon particles, which can undergo only one round of infection, identified Langerhans cells to be the initial set of cells infected by VEE directly following inoculation. These cells are resident dendritic cells in the skin, which migrate to the draining lymph node following activation. A point mutation in the E2 glycoprotein gene of VEE that renders the virus avirulent and compromises its ability to spread beyond the draining lymph blocked the appearance of virally infected dendritic cells in the lymph node in vivo. A second-site suppressor mutation that restores viral spread to lymphoid tissues and partially restore virulence likewise restored the ability of VEE to infect dendritic cells in vivo. (+info)
A single-site mutant and revertants arising in vivo define early steps in the pathogenesis of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus.
The early stages of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEE) pathogenesis in the mouse model have been examined using a genetic approach. Disease progression of a molecularly cloned single-site mutant was compared with that of the parental virus to determine the step in the VEE pathogenetic sequence at which the mutant was blocked. Assuming that such a block constitutes a genetic screen, isolates from different tissues thought to be distal to the block in the VEE pathogenetic sequence were analyzed to determine the pathogenetic step at which revertants of the mutant were selected. Directed mutation and analysis of reversion in vivo provide two powerful genetic tools for the dissection of the wild-type VEE pathogenetic sequence. Virus from the parental virulent clone, V3000, first replicated in the draining lymph node after subcutaneous inoculation in the left rear footpad. Movement of a cloned avirulent mutant, V3010 (E2 76 Glu to Lys), to the draining lymph node was impaired, replication in the node was delayed, and spread beyond the draining lymph node was sporadic. Serum, contralateral lymph node, spleen, and brain isolates from V3010 inoculated animals were invariably revertant with respect to sequence at E2 76 and/or virulence in mice. Revertants isolated from serum and contralateral lymph node retained the V3010 E2 Lys 76 mutation but also contained a second-site mutation, Glu to Lys at E2 116. Modification of the V3010 clone by addition of the second-site mutation at E2 116 produced a virus that bypassed the V3010 block at the draining lymph node but that did not possess full wild-type capacity for replication in the central nervous system or for induction of mortality. A control construct containing only the E2 116 reverting mutation on the V3000 background was identical to V3000 in terms of early pathogenetic steps and virulence. Therefore, analysis of mutant replication and reversion in vivo suggested (1) that the earliest steps in VEE pathogenesis are transit to the draining lymph node and replication at that site, (2) that the mutation in V3010 impairs transit to the draining lymph node and blocks dissemination to other tissues, and (3) that reversion can overcome the block without restoring full virulence. (+info)
Pegylated alpha interferon is an effective treatment for virulent venezuelan equine encephalitis virus and has profound effects on the host immune response to infection.
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) is a highly infectious alphavirus endemic in parts of Central and South America. The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes, and the natural reservoir is the small rodent population, with epidemics occurring in horses and occasionally humans. Following infection, VEEV replicates in lymphoid tissues prior to invasion of the central nervous system. Treatment of VEEV-infected BALB/c mice with polyethylene glycol-conjugated alpha interferon (PEG IFN-alpha) results in a greatly enhanced survival from either a subcutaneous or an aerosol infection. Virus is undetectable within PEG IFN-alpha-treated individuals by day 30 postinfection (p.i.). Treatment results in a number of changes to the immune response characteristics normally associated with VEEV infection. Increased macrophage activation occurs in PEG IFN-alpha-treated BALB/c mice infected with VEEV. The rapid activation of splenic CD4, CD8, and B cells by day 2 p.i. normally associated with VEEV infection is absent in PEG IFN-alpha-treated mice. The high tumor necrosis factor alpha production by macrophages from untreated mice is greatly diminished in PEG IFN-alpha-treated mice. These results suggest key immunological mechanisms targeted by this lethal alphavirus that can be modulated by prolonged exposure to IFN-alpha. (+info)