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    Vilyuisk human encephalitis virus (VHEV) is a picornavirus related to Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV). VHEV was isolated from human material passaged in mice. Whether this VHEV is of human or mouse origin is therefore unclear. We took advantage of the species-specific activity of the nonstructural L* protein of theiloviruses to track the origin of TMEV isolates. TMEV L* inhibits RNase L, the effector enzyme of the interferon pathway. By using coimmunoprecipitation and functional RNase L assays, the species specificity of RNase L antagonism was tested for L* from mouse (DA) and rat (RTV-1) TMEV strains as well as for VHEV. Coimmunoprecipitation and functional assay data confirmed the species specificity of L* activity and showed that L* from rat strain RTV-1 inhibited rat but not mouse or human RNase L. Next, we showed that the VHEV L* protein was phylogenetically related to L* of mouse viruses and that it failed to inhibit human RNase L but readily antagonized mouse RNase L, unambiguously showing the mouse origin of VHEV.IMPORTANCE Defining the natural host of a virus can be a thorny issue, especially when the virus was isolated only once or when the isolation story is complex. The species Theilovirus includes Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV), infecting mice and rats, and Saffold virus (SAFV), infecting humans. One TMEV strain, Vilyuisk human encephalitis virus (VHEV), however, was isolated from mice that were inoculated with cerebrospinal fluid of a patient presenting with chronic encephalitis. It is therefore unclear whether VHEV was derived from the human sample or from the inoculated mouse. The L* protein encoded by TMEV inhibits RNase L, a cellular enzyme involved in innate immunity, in a species-specific manner. Using binding and functional assays, we show that this species specificity even allows discrimination between TMEV strains of mouse and of rat origins. The VHEV L* protein clearly inhibited mouse but not human RNase L, indicating that this virus originates from mice. Copyright © 2017 American Society for Microbiology.


    Melissa Drappier, Fred R Opperdoes, Thomas Michiels. Nonstructural Protein L* Species Specificity Supports a Mouse Origin for Vilyuisk Human Encephalitis Virus. Journal of virology. 2017 Jul 15;91(14)

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    PMID: 28446680

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