Characterization of mumps virus strains with varying neurovirulence

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Mumps virus strains isolated during an epidemic in Lithuania in 1998 – 2000 were studied. Viruses of the neurovirulent C1 and non-neurovirulent C2 small hydrophobic (SH) genotype variant were sequenced for the haemagglutinin-neuraminidase (HN) and fusion (F) protein genes. Amino acid differences between C1 and C2 strains were found for both proteins. Two amino acid differences were of potential importance for the non-neurovirulent phenotype of the C2 virus. Four of 5 C2 strains exhibited the amino acid arginine instead of lysine at position 335 of the HN protein, and the amino acid phenylalanine was found instead of serine at amino acid position 195 of the F protein. Amino acid differences at these positions have previously been reported to associate with a change in neurovirulence and fusion activity. In addition, the HN gene of the neurovirulent Kilham strain of genotype A was sequenced. The deduced amino acid sequence showed different amino acids compared to both genotypes A and C on some positions. Notably, amino acid differences located in previously identified neutralizing epitopes were found at positions 266, 354 and 356 of the HN protein compared to other genotype A strains. The amino acid differences between Kilham virus strain and other genotype A strains and the similarity of the Kilham HN protein (7 positions) to neurovirulent genotype C strains on some amino acid positions may indicate a possible role for this protein in mumps virus neurovirulence.

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