Attenuated mutants of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus containing lethal mutations in the PE2 cleavage signal combined with a second-site suppressor mutation in E1

Virology. 1995 Sep 10;212(1):102-10. doi: 10.1006/viro.1995.1458.


The PE2 cleavage signal in a full-length cDNA clone of the alphavirus Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEE) was ablated by site-directed mutagenesis. RNA transcripts derived from the resulting plasmids programmed the production of nonviable particles upon transfection of baby hamster kidney (BHK) cells. However, the mutant RNAs also gave rise to a small proportion of viable revertants. Analysis of these biological revertants and their molecularly cloned homologs demonstrated that second-site suppressor mutations at either E2 position 243 or E1 position 253 were able to restore viability to PE2 cleavage signal mutants. The viable revertants incorporated unprocessed PE2 into particles which showed normal infectivity for BHK cells, but reduced ability to grow in C6/36 mosquito cells. A mutant carrying a lethal PE2 cleavage signal mutation in combination with a suppressor at E1 253 was either avirulent or highly attenuated in adult mice when inoculated by the subcutaneous, intracerebral, or intranasal route and conferred complete protection against both intraperitoneal and intranasal challenge with virulent VEE. These results indicate the close functional association of the E2 and E1 proteins in the alphavirus spike. They also have implications for the design of recombinant live virus vaccines for VEE, for other alphaviruses, and for other viruses that use a similar mechanism for glycoprotein maturation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Encephalitis Virus, Venezuelan Equine / genetics*
  • Encephalitis Virus, Venezuelan Equine / immunology
  • Female
  • Genes, Lethal
  • Genes, Suppressor
  • Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Molecular Weight
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Vaccines, Attenuated / genetics
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / genetics*
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / metabolism
  • Viral Vaccines / genetics
  • Virus Replication


  • Glycoproteins
  • Vaccines, Attenuated
  • Viral Envelope Proteins
  • Viral Vaccines
  • glycoprotein E2, equine encephalitis virus