The recent development of arterivirus full-length cDNA clones makes possible the construction of chimeric arteriviruses for fundamental and applied studies. Using an equine arteritis virus (EAV) infectious cDNA clone, we have engineered chimeras in which the ectodomains of the two major envelope proteins, the glycoprotein GP(5) and the membrane protein M, were replaced by sequences from envelope proteins of related and unrelated RNA viruses. Using immunofluorescence microscopy, we monitored the transport of the hybrid GP(5) and M proteins to the Golgi complex, which depends on their heterodimerization and is a prerequisite for virus assembly. The only viable chimeras were those containing the GP(5) ectodomain from the porcine (PRRSV) or mouse (LDV) arteriviruses, which are both considerably smaller than the corresponding sequence of EAV. Although the two viable GP(5) chimeras were attenuated, they were still able to infect baby hamster kidney (BHK-21) and rabbit kidney (RK-13) cells. These cells can be infected by EAV, but not by either PRRSV or LDV. This implies that the ectodomain of the major glycoprotein GP(5), which has been postulated to be involved in receptor recognition, is not the main determinant of EAV tropism in cell culture.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.