Epistastic interactions within the Junín virus envelope glycoprotein complex provide an evolutionary barrier to reversion in the live-attenuated Candid#1 vaccine

Joanne York, Jack H. Nunberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Candid#1 strain of Junín virus was developed using a conventional attenuation strategy of serial passage in nonhost animals and cultured cells. The live-attenuated Candid#1 vaccine is used in Argentina to protect at-risk individuals against Argentine hemorrhagic fever, but it has not been licensed in the United States. Recent studies have revealed that Candid#1 attenuation is entirely dependent on a phenylalanine-to-isoleucine substitution at position 427 in the fusion subunit (GP2) of the viral envelope glycoprotein complex (GPC), thereby raising concerns regarding the potential for reversion to virulence. In this study, we report the identification and characterization of an intragenic epistatic interaction between the attenuating F427I mutation in GP2 and a lysine-to-serine mutation at position 33 in the stable signal peptide (SSP) subunit of GPC, and we demonstrate the utility of this interaction in creating an evolutionary barrier against reversion to the pathogenic genotype. In the presence of the wild-type F427 residue, the K33S mutation abrogates the ability of ectopically expressed GPC to mediate membrane fusion at endosomal pH. This defect is rescued by the attenuating F427I mutation. We show that the recombinant Candid#1 (rCan) virus bearing K33S GPC is viable and retains its attenuated genotype under cell culture conditions that readily select for reversion in the parental rCan virus. If back-mutation to F427 offers an accessible pathway to increase fitness in rCan, reversion in K33S-GPC rCan is likely to be lethal. The epistatic interaction between K33S and F427I thus may minimize the likelihood of reversion and enhance safety in a second-generation Candid#1 vaccine.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01682-17
JournalJournal of Virology
Volume92
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

Keywords

  • Arenavirus
  • Attenuation
  • Candid#1
  • Envelope glycoprotein
  • Epistasis
  • Evolution
  • Junín
  • Membrane fusion
  • Vaccines
  • Virus entry

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