Simian varicella virus (SVV), the primate counterpart of varicellazoster virus, causes varicella (chickenpox), establishes latency in ganglia, and reactivates to produce zoster. We previously demonstrated that a recombinant SVV expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein (rSVV.eGFP) is slightly attenuated both in culture and in infected monkeys. Here, we generated two additional recombinant SVVs to visualize infected cells in vitro and in vivo. One harbors eGFP fused to the N terminus of open reading frame 9 (ORF9) (rSVV.eGFP-2a-ORF9), and another harbors eGFP fused to the C terminus of ORF66 (rSVV.eGFP-ORF66). Both recombinant viruses efficiently expressed eGFP in cultured cells. Both recombinant SVV infections in culture were comparable to that of wild-type SVV (SVV.wt). Unlike SVV.wt, eGFPtagged SVV did not replicate in rhesus cells in culture. Intratracheal (i.t.) or i.t. plus intravenous (i.v.) inoculation of rhesus macaques with these new eGFP-tagged viruses resulted in low viremia without varicella rash, although SVV DNA was abundant in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid at 10 days postinoculation (dpi). SVV DNA was also found in trigeminal ganglia of one monkey inoculated with rSVV.eGFPORF66. Intriguingly, a humoral response to both SVV and eGFP was observed. In addition, monkeys inoculated with the eGFP-expressing viruses were protected from superinfection with SVV.wt, suggesting that the monkeys had mounted an efficient immune response. Together, our results show that eGFP expression could be responsible for their reduced pathogenesis.

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Journal of Virology
Department of Virology

Mahalingam, R., Kaufer, B.B. (Benedikt B.), Ouwendijk, W., Verjans, G., Coleman, C. (Colin), Hunter, M. (Meredith), … Traina-Dorge, V. (2018). Attenuation of simian varicella virus infection by enhanced green fluorescent protein in rhesus macaques. Journal of Virology, 92(7). doi:10.1128/JVI.02253-17