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Generation and evaluation of a chimeric classical swine fever virus expressing a visible marker gene

Li, Yongfeng, Wang, Xiao, Sun, Yuan, Li, Lian-Feng, Zhang, Lingkai, Li, Su, Luo, Yuzi, Qiu, Hua-Ji
Archives of virology 2016 v.161 no.3 pp. 563-571
Classical swine fever virus, RNA replication, chimerism, fluorescence, genetic background, genetic markers, green fluorescent protein, in vitro studies, monitoring, reporter genes, swine, vaccines, viral load, viremia, virulence, viruses
Classical swine fever virus (CSFV) is a noncytopathogenic virus, and the incorporation of an enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) tag into the viral genome provides a means of direct monitoring of viral infection without immunostaining. It is well established that the 3′ untranslated region (3′-UTR) of the CSFV plays an important role in viral RNA replication. Although CSFV carrying a reporter gene and chimeric CSFV have been generated and evaluated, a chimeric CSFV with a visible marker has not yet been reported. Here, we generated and evaluated a chimeric virus containing the EGFP tag and the 3′-UTR from vaccine strain HCLV (C-strain) in the genetic background of the highly virulent CSFV Shimen strain. The chimeric marker CSFV was fluorescent and had an approximately 100-fold lower viral titer, lower replication level of viral genome, and weaker fluorescence intensity than the recombinant CSFV with only the EGFP tag or the parental virus. Furthermore, the marker chimera was avirulent and displayed no viremia in inoculated pigs, which were completely protected from lethal CSFV challenge as early as 15 days post-inoculation. The chimeric marker virus was visible in vitro and attenuated in vitro and in vivo, which suggests that CSFV can be engineered to produce attenuated variants with a visible marker to facilitate in vitro studies of CSFV infection and replication and to develop of novel vaccines against CSF.