Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) is a mosquito-borne bunyavirus with a wide host range includ-ing ruminants and humans. RVFV outbreaks have had devastating effects on public health and the livestock industry in African countries. However, there is no approved RVFV vaccine for human use in non-endemic countries and no FDA-approved antiviral drug for RVFV treatment. The RVFV 78kDa protein (P78), which is a membrane glycoprotein, plays a role in virus dissemination in the mosquito host, but its biological role in mammalian hosts remains unknown. We generated an attenuated RVFV MP-12 strain-derived P78-High virus and a virulent ZH501 strain-derived ZH501-P78-High virus, both of which expressed a higher level of P78 and carried higher levels of P78 in the virion compared to their parental viruses. We also generated another MP-12-derived mutant virus (P78-KO virus) that does not express P78. MP-12 and P78-KO virus replicated to similar levels in fibroblast cell lines and Huh7 cells, while P78-High virus replicated better than MP-12 in Vero E6 cells, fibro-blast cell lines, and Huh7 cells. Notably, P78-High virus and P78-KO virus replicated less efficiently and more efficiently, respectively, than MP-12 in macrophage cell lines. ZH501-P78-High virus also replicated poorly in macrophage cell lines. Our data further suggest that inefficient binding of P78-High virus to the cells led to inefficient virus internalization, low virus infectivity and reduced virus replication in a macrophage cell line. P78-High virus and P78-KO virus showed lower and higher virulence than MP-12, respectively, in young mice. ZH501-P78-High virus also exhibited lower virulence than ZH501 in mice. These data suggest that high levels of P78 expression attenuate RVFV virulence by preventing efficient virus replication in macrophages. Genetic alteration leading to increased P78 expression may serve as a novel strategy for the attenuation of RVFV virulence and generation of safe RVFV vaccines.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases