West Nile virus (WNV) was first detected in Texas in 2002. During 2003, several isolates exhibiting significant attenuation of mouse neuroinvasiveness, and in some cases a small plaque and temperature sensitive phenotype when compared to other North American WNV isolates, were obtained from birds and mosquitoes in South-East Texas. To determine the attenuation markers of WNV, we have sequenced the genomes of three attenuated isolates and four temporally related virulent isolates and compared the amino acid substitutions in a total of 101 isolates, including three previously published genomes of attenuated strains, to identify mutations that are potentially involved in attenuation. Surprisingly, the attenuated strains fall into three separate "groups", suggesting that the attenuated phenotype evolved on three separate occasions in 2003. None of the groups share the same nucleotide changes or amino acid substitutions, and there are few mutations that can be clearly defined alone as being associated with attenuation.
- West Nile virus
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