Human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is an important pathogen causing acute lower respiratory tract disease in children. The RSV attachment glycoprotein (G) is not required for infection, as G-null RSV replicates efficiently in several cell lines. Our laboratory previously reported that the viral fusion (F) protein is a determinant of strain-dependent pathogenesis. Here, we hypothesized that virus dependence on G is determined by the strain specificity of F. We generated recombinant viruses expressing G and F, or null for G, from the laboratory A2 strain (Katushka RSV-A2GA2F [kRSV-A2GA2F] and kRSV-GstopA2F) or the clinical isolate A2001/2-20 (kRSV-2-20G2-20F and kRSV-Gstop2-20F). We quantified the virus cell binding, entry kinetics, infectivity, and growth kinetics of these four recombinant viruses in vitro. RSV expressing the 2-20 G protein exhibited the greatest binding activity. Compared to the parental viruses expressing G and F, removal of 2-20 G had more deleterious effects on binding, entry, infectivity, and growth than removal of A2 G. Overall, RSV expressing 2-20 F had a high dependence on G for binding, entry, and infection.
Importance: RSV is the leading cause of childhood acute respiratory disease requiring hospitalization. As with other paramyxoviruses, two major RSV surface viral glycoproteins, the G attachment protein and the F fusion protein, mediate virus binding and subsequent membrane fusion, respectively. Previous work on the RSV A2 prototypical strain demonstrated that the G protein is functionally dispensable for in vitro replication. This is in contrast to other paramyxoviruses that require attachment protein function as a prerequisite for fusion. We reevaluated this requirement for RSV using G and F proteins from clinical isolate 2-20. Compared to the laboratory A2 strain, the G protein from 2-20 had greater contributions to virus binding, entry, infectivity, and in vitro growth kinetics. Thus, the clinical isolate 2-20 F protein function depended more on its G protein, suggesting that RSV has a higher dependence on G than previously thought.
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