Characterization of Recombinant Dengue-2 Virus Derived from a Single Nucleotide Substitution in the 5′ Noncoding Region
A C57U nucleotide mutation in a predicted RNA stem structure (nt 11-16/56-61) of the 5' non-coding region (5'NCR) of dengue 2 (DEN-2) 16681 virus is partially attenuating, but unstable during serial passage of certain candidate DEN-2 PDK-53-based vaccine viruses containing this mutation. Here, 11 different mutations (one or more point substitution and/or deletion) between nt 54 and 70 in the 5'NCR of the pD2/IC-30P-A (16681) infectious clone are described. Four mutants were infectious. Three mutants with single point substitutions replicated well in cell culture and exhibited variable neurovirulence in mice. Constructs containing multiple substitutions or any deletions failed to produce infectious viruses. Unexpectedly, a double C57U+G58C mutant replicated as efficiently as D2/IC-30P-A virus, and was more neurovirulent for newborn ICR mice. Thus, despite its predicted additional disruption of the RNA stem structure, the engineered contiguous secondary G58C mutation caused reversion of the partially attenuated phenotype caused by the 5'NCR-C57U mutation.