Newcastle disease virus (NDV), also designated as Avian paramyxovirus type 1 (APMV-1), is the causative agent of a notifiable disease of poultry but it exhibits different pathogenicity dependent on the virus strain. The molecular basis for this variability is not fully understood. The efficiency of activation of the fusion protein (F) is determined by presence or absence of a polybasic amino acid sequence at an internal proteolytic cleavage site which is a major determinant of NDV virulence. However, other determinants of pathogenicity must exist since APMV-1 of high (velogenic), intermediate (mesogenic) and low (lentogenic) virulence specify a polybasic F cleavage site. We aimed at elucidation of additional virulence determinants by constructing a recombinant virus that consists of a lentogenic NDV Clone 30 backbone and the F protein gene from a mesogenic pigeon paramyxovirus-1 (PPMV-1) isolate with an intracerebral pathogenicity index (ICPI) of 1.1 specifying the polybasic sequence R-R-K-K-R*F motif at the cleavage site. The resulting virus was characterized by an ICPI of 0.6, indicating a lentogenic pathotype. In contrast, alteration of the cleavage site G-R-Q-G-R*L of the lentogenic Clone 30 to R-R-K-K-R*F resulted in a recombinant virus with an ICPI of 1.36 which was higher than that of parental PPMV-1. Substitution of different regions of the F protein of Clone 30 by those of PPMV-1, while maintaining the polybasic amino acid sequence at the F cleavage site, resulted in recombinant viruses with ICPIs ranging from 0.59 to 1.36 suggesting that virulence is modulated by regions of the F protein other than the polybasic cleavage site.
Heiden, S., Grund, C., Röder, A., Granzow, H., Kühnel, D., Mettenleiter, T. C., & Römer-Oberdörfer, A. (2014). Different regions of the newcastle disease virus fusion protein modulate pathogenicity. PLoS ONE, 9(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0113344