Rabies virus quasispecies: Implications for pathogenesis

Kinjiro Morimoto, D. Craig Hooper, Heather Carbaugh, Zhen Fang Fu, Hilary Koprowski, Bernhard Dietzschold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

151 Scopus citations


Passage of the mouse-adapted rabies virus strain CVS-24 (where CVS is challenge virus standard) in BHK cells results in the rapid selection of a dominant variant designated CVS-B2c that differs genotypically and phenotypically from the dominant variant CVS-N2c present in mouse-brain- or neuroblastoma-cell-passaged CVS-24. The glycoprotein of CVS-B2c has 10 amino acid substitutions compared with that of CVS-N2c. Because CVS-B2c can be reproducibly selected in BHK cells, it is likely to be a conserved minor subpopulation of CVS-24. CVS-N2c is more neurotropic in vitro and in vivo than CVS-B2c, which replicates more readily in nonneuronal cells in vitro and in vivo. These characteristics appear to be relevant to the pathogenicity of the two variants. CVS-N2c is more pathogenic for adult mice than CVS-B2c. In contrast, CVS-B2c is more pathogenic for neonatal mice. These differences in pathogenicity are reflected in the selection pattern when mixtures of CVS- N2c and CVS-B2c were used to infect neonatal and adult mice. Although CVS- N2c was highly selected in adult mice, no selection for either variant was seen in neonates, suggesting that certain aspects of development, such as maturation of the nervous and immune systems, may contribute to the selection process. We speculate that the existence of different variants within a rabies virus strain may facilitate the virus in overcoming barriers to its spread, both within the host and between species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3152-3156
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - 17 Mar 1998
Externally publishedYes


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