Mutations in the M-gene segment can substantially increase replication efficiency of NS1 deletion influenza A virus in MDCK cells.

van Wielink R1, Harmsen MM, Martens DE, Peeters BP, Wijffels RH, Moormann RJ.
Source: J Virol
Publication Date: (2012)
Issue: 86(11): 12341-50
Research Area:
Immunotherapy / Hematology
Basic Research
Molecular Biology
Culture Media:
Influenza viruses unable to express NS1 protein (delNS1) replicate poorly and induce large amounts of interferon (IFN). They are therefore considered candidate viruses for live-attenuated influenza vaccines. Their attenuated replication is generally assumed to result from the inability to counter the antiviral host response, as delNS1 viruses replicate efficiently in Vero cells, which lack IFN expression. In this study, delNS1 virus was parallel passaged on IFN-competent MDCK cells, which resulted in two strains that were able to replicate to high virus titers in MDCK cells due to adaptive mutations especially in the M-gene segment but also in the NP and NS gene segments. Most notable were clustered U-to-C mutations in the M segment of both strains and clustered A-to-G mutations in the NS segment of one strain, which presumably resulted from host cell-mediated RNA editing. The M segment mutations in both strains changed the ratio of M1 to M2 expression, probably by affecting splicing efficiency. In one virus, 2 amino acid substitutions in M1 additionally enhanced virus replication, possibly through changes in the M1 distribution between the nucleus and the cytoplasm. Both adapted viruses induced levels of IFN equal to that of the original delNS1 virus. These results show that the increased replication of the adapted viruses is not primarily due to altered IFN induction but rather is related to changes in M1 expression or localization. The mutations identified in this paper may be used to enhance delNS1 virus replication for vaccine production.