Influenza A viruses (IAV) carrying reporter genes provide a powerful tool to study viral infection and pathogenesis in vivo, however, incorporating a non-essential gene into the IAV genome often results in virus attenuation and genetic instability. Very few studies have systematically compared different reporter IAVs, and most optimization attempts seem to lack authentic directions. In this study, we evaluated the ratio of genome copies to the number of infectious unit of two reporter IAVs, PR8-NS1-Gluc and PR8-PB2-Gluc. As a result, PR8-NS1-Gluc and PR8-PB2-Gluc produced 41.4 and 3.8 genomes containing noninfectious particles respectively for every such particle produced by parental PR8 virus. RdRp assay demonstrated that modification of segment NS by inserting reporter genes can interfere with the replication competitive property of the corresponding vRNAs, and the balance of the 8 segments of the reporter IAVs were drastically impaired in infected cells. As a consequence, large amounts of NS-null noninfectious particles were produced during the PR8-NS1-Gluc packaging. In summary, we unravel a mechanism underlying attenuation of reporter IAVs, which suggests a new approach to restore infectivity and virulence by introducing extra mutations compensating for the impaired replication property of corresponding segments.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited