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Genetic Determinants of Differential Oral Infection Phenotypes of West Nile and St. Louis Encephalitis Viruses in Culex spp. Mosquitoes

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  • Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Collins, Colorado; Center for Vectorborne Diseases and Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, California

St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV) has shown greater susceptibility to oral infectivity than West Nile virus (WNV) in Culex mosquitoes. To identify the viral genetic elements that modulate these disparate phenotypes, structural chimeras (WNV–pre-membrane [prM] and envelope [E] proteins [prME]/SLEV.IC (infectious clone) and SLEV-prME/WNV.IC) were constructed in which two of the structural proteins, the prM and E, were interchanged between viruses. Oral dose–response assessment with the chimeric/parental WNV and SLEV was performed to characterize the infection phenotypes in Culex mosquitoes by artificial blood meals. The median infectious dose required to infect 50% of Cx. quinquefasciatus with WNV was indistinguishable from that of the SLEV-prME/WNV.IC chimeric virus. Similarly, SLEV and WNV-prME/SLEV.IC virus exhibited an indistinguishable oral dose–response relationship in Cx. quinquefasciatus. Infection rates for WNV.IC and SLEV-prME/WNV.IC were significantly lower than SLEV.IC and WNV-prME/SLEV.IC infection rates. These results indicated that WNV and SLEV oral infectivities are not mediated by genetic differences within the prM and E proteins.

Author Notes

* Address correspondence to Aaron C. Brault, Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3156 Rampart Road, Fort Collins, CO 80521. E-mail: abrault@cdc.gov

Financial support: Funding for these studies was provided by the Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority (BARDA), Pacific Southwest Regional Center for Excellence Grant AI065359, National Institutes of Health Grants AI061822 and AI55607, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Grant CI000235, and the University of California Mosquito Research Program.

Authors' addresses: Payal D. Maharaj and William K. Reisen, Center for Vectorborne Disease and Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA, E-mails: pamahara@utmb.edu and wkreisen@ucdavis.edu. Bethany G. Bolling, Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, and Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Collins, CO, E-mail: bethanybolling@gmail.com. Michael Anishchenko and Aaron C. Brault, Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Collins, CO, E-mails: iot5@cdc.gov and abrault@cdc.gov.

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