Nucleoprotein (N) is a key element in rabies virus (RABV) replication. To further investigate the effect of N on RABV, we manipulated an infectious cDNA clone of the RABV HEP-Flury to rearrange the N gene from its wild-type position of 1 (N-P-M-G-L) to 2 (P-N-M-G-L), 3 (P-M-N-G-L), or 4 (P-M-G-N-L), using an approach that left the viral nucleotide sequence unaltered. Subsequently, viable viruses were recovered from each of the rearranged cDNA and examined for their gene expression levels, growth kinetics in cell culture, pathogenicity in suckling mice and protection in mice. The results showed that gene rearrangement decreased N mRNA transcription and vRNA replication. As a result, all viruses with rearranged genomes showed worse replication than that of rHEP-Flury in NA cells at a MOI of 0.01, but equivalent or slightly better replication levels at a MOI of 3. Consequently, the lethality in suckling mice infected with N4 was clearly attenuated compared with rHEP-Flury. However, the protection to mice was not enhanced. This study not only gives us insight into the understanding of the phenotype of RABV N gene rearrangement, but also helps with rabies vaccine candidate construction.
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