The current live rabies vaccine SAG2 is attenuated by only one mutation (Arg-to-Glu) at position 333 in the glycoprotein (G333). This fact generates a potential risk of the emergence of a pathogenic revertant by a back mutation at this position during viral propagation in the body. To circumvent this risk, it is desirable to generate a live vaccine strain highly and stably attenuated by multiple mutations. However, the information on attenuating mutations other than that at G333 is very limited. We previously reported that amino acids at positions 273 and 394 in the nucleoprotein (N273/394) (Leu and His, respectively) of fixed rabies virus Ni-CE are responsible for the attenuated phenotype by enhancing interferon (IFN)/chemokine gene expressions in infected neural cells. In this study, we found that amino acid substitutions at N273/394 (Phe-to-Leu and Tyr-to-His, respectively) attenuated the pathogenicity of the oral live vaccine ERA, which has a virulent-type Arg at G333. Then we generated ERA-N273/394-G333 attenuated by the combination of the above attenuating mutations at G333 and N273/394, and checked its safety. Similar to the ERA-G333, which is attenuated by only the mutation at G333, ERA-N273/394-G333 did not cause any symptoms in adult mice after intracerebral inoculation, indicating a low level of residual pathogenicity of ERA-N273/394-G333. Further examination revealed that infection with ERA-N273/394-G333 induces IFN-β and CXCL10 mRNA expressions more strongly than ERA-G333 infection in a neuroblastoma cell line. Importantly, we found that the ERA-N273/394-G333 stain has a lower risk for emergence of a pathogenic revertant than does the ERA-G333. These results indicate that ERA-N273/394-G333 has a potential to be a promising candidate for a live rabies vaccine strain with a high level of safety.
Keywords: Attenuated live vaccine; Gene manipulation; Glycoprotein; Nucleoprotein; Rabies.
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