Continuous, persistent replication of a wild-type strain of vesicular stomatitis virus in cultured sandfly cells for 10 months profoundly decreased virus replicative fitness in mammalian cells and greatly increased fitness in sandfly cells. After persistent infection of sandfly cells, fitness was over 2,000,000-fold greater than that in mammalian cells, indicating extreme selective differences in the environmental conditions provided by insect and mammalian cells. The sandfly-adapted virus also showed extremely low fitness in mouse brain cells (comparable to that in mammalian cell cultures). It also showed an attenuated phenotype, requiring a nearly millionfold higher intracranial dose than that of its parent clone to kill mice. A single passage of this adapted virus in BHK-21 cells at 37°C restored fitness to near neutrality and also restored mouse neurovirulence. These results clearly illustrate the enormous capacity of RNA viruses to adapt to changing selective environments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science