Monoclonal antibodies which reacted with four different epitopes were used to select neutralization-resistant variants of Australian bluetongue virus serotype l (BTV1AUS; isolate CS156). Nucleotide sequencing of the VP2 outer coat protein gene of these variants showed that two of them contained alterations within the previously defined neutralization site at amino acids 328 to 335 (Gould et al., 1988). Comparison of VP2 sequences of several BTV serotypes, in addition to nucleotide sequence changes in a number of variants, suggested that this neutralization site was larger and contamed 19 amino acids, the conformation of which could be affected by other regions of the VP2 protein. Nucleotide sequencing of neutralization-resistant variants revealed a total of four other regions of VP2 affecting the ability of monoclonal antibodies to neutralize the virus and these results support the notion that the neutralization site in VP2 was conformation dependent. The complete nucleotide sequence of the VP2 gene of virulent BTV1AUS (C5156) was determined directly from viral nucleic acid isolated from the blood of a sheep suffering clinical bluetongue disease. Comparison of the VP2 sequence of this virulent virus with that previously published for an avirulent, laboratory strain (Gould, 1988), indicated that the passage of virulent virus approximately 20 times in tissue culture over the last decade, not only led to attenuation but resulted in the appearance of ten nucleotide changes in the VP2 gene. Six of these nucleotide changes were silent, two resulted in conservative amino acid substitutions and two generated radical amino acid changes. However, in a separate experiment, a single passage of the virulent virus in tissue culture while leading to attenuation did not result in a nucleotide change in the VP2 outer coat protein gene. © 1990.
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