Mosquito-borne chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a positive-sense, single-stranded RNA virus from the genus Alphavirus, family Togaviridae, which causes fever, rash and severe persistent polyarthralgia in humans. Since there are currently no FDA licensed vaccines or antiviral therapies for CHIKV, the development of vaccine candidates is of critical importance. Historically, live-attenuated vaccines (LAVs) for protection against arthropod-borne viruses have been created by blind cell culture passage leading to attenuation of disease, while maintaining immunogenicity. Attenuation may occur via multiple mechanisms. However, all examined arbovirus LAVs have in common the acquisition of positively charged amino acid substitutions in cell-surface attachment proteins that render virus infection partially dependent upon heparan sulfate (HS), a ubiquitously expressed sulfated polysaccharide, and appear to attenuate by retarding dissemination of virus particles in vivo. We previously reported that, like other wild-type Old World alphaviruses, CHIKV strain, La Réunion, (CHIKV-LR), does not depend upon HS for infectivity. To deliberately identify CHIKV attachment protein mutations that could be combined with other attenuating processes in a LAV candidate, we passaged CHIKV-LR on evolutionarily divergent cell-types. A panel of single amino acid substitutions was identified in the E2 glycoprotein of passaged virus populations that were predicted to increase electrostatic potential. Each of these substitutions was made in the CHIKV-LR cDNA clone and comparisons of the mutant viruses revealed surface exposure of the mutated residue on the spike and sensitivity to competition with the HS analog, heparin, to be primary correlates of attenuation in vivo. Furthermore, we have identified a mutation at E2 position 79 as a promising candidate for inclusion in a CHIKV LAV.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases