A novel method to rescue and culture duck Astrovirus type 1 in vitro

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Background: Reverse genetics systems enable the manipulation of viral genomes and therefore serve as robust reverse genetic tools to study RNA viruses. A DNA-launched rescue system initiates the transcription of viral genomic cDNA from eukaryotic promoter in transfected cells, generating homogenous RNA transcripts in vitro and thus enhancing virus rescue efficiency. As one of the hazardous pathogens to ducklings, the current knowledge of the pathogenesis of duck astrovirus type 1 (DAstV-1) is limited. The construction of a DNA-launched rescue system can help to accelerate the study of the virus pathogenesis. However, there is no report of such a system for DAstV-1. Methods: In this study, a DNA-launched infectious clone of DAstV-1 was constructed from a cDNA plasmid, which contains a viral cDNA sequence flanked by hammerhead ribozyme (HamRz) and a hepatitis delta virus ribozyme (HdvRz) sequence at both terminals of the viral genome. A silent nucleotide mutation creating a Bgl II site in the ORF2 gene was made to distinguish the rescued virus (rDAstV-1) from the parental virus (pDAstV-1). Immunofluorescence assay (IFA) and western blot were conducted for rescued virus identification in duck embryo fibroblast (DEF) cells pre-treated with trypsin. The growth characteristics of rDAstV-1 and pDAstV-1 in DEF cells and the tissue tropism in 2-day-old ducklings of rDAstV-1 and pDAstV-1 were determined. Results: The infectious DAstV-1 was successfully rescued from baby hamster kidney (BHK-21) cells and could propagate in DEF cells pre-treated with 1 μg/ml trypsin. Upon infection of DEF cells pre-treated with trypsin, DAstV-1 mRNA copies were identified after serial passaging, and the result showed that rDAstV-1 and pDAstV-1 shared similar replication kinetics. Animal experiment showed that the rDAstV-1 had an extensive tissue tropism, and the virus was capable of invading both the central and the peripheral immune organs in infected ducklings. Conclusions: An improved DNA-launched reverse genetics system for DAstV-1 was firstly constructed. Infectious virus recovered from BHK-21 cells could propagate in DEF cells pre-treated with trypsin. This is the first report of the successful in vitro cultivation of DAstV-1. We believe this valuable experimental system will contribute to the further study of DAstV-1 genome function and pathogenesis.




Zhang, R., Lan, J., Li, H., Chen, J., Yang, Y., Lin, S., … Jiang, S. (2019). A novel method to rescue and culture duck Astrovirus type 1 in vitro. Virology Journal, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12985-019-1218-5

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