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A Variant Allele in Varicella-Zoster Virus Glycoprotein B Selected during Production of the Varicella Vaccine Contributes to Its Attenuation

Sadaoka, Tomohiko; Depledge, Daniel P; Rajbhandari, Labchan; Breuer, Judith; Venkatesan, Arun; Cohen, Jeffrey; (2022) A Variant Allele in Varicella-Zoster Virus Glycoprotein B Selected during Production of the Varicella Vaccine Contributes to Its Attenuation. Genetics and Molecular Biology , 13 (4) pp. 1-19. 10.1128/mbio.01864-22. Green open access

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Abstract

Attenuation of the live varicella Oka vaccine (vOka) has been attributed to mutations in the genome acquired during cell culture passage of pOka (parent strain); however, the precise mechanisms of attenuation remain unknown. Comparative sequence analyses of several vaccine batches showed that over 100 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are conserved across all vaccine batches; 6 SNPs are nearly fixed, suggesting that these SNPs are responsible for attenuation. By contrast, prior analysis of chimeric vOka and pOka recombinants indicates that loci other than these six SNPs contribute to attenuation. Here, we report that pOka consists of a heterogenous population of virus sequences with two nearly equally represented bases, guanine (G) or adenine (A), at nucleotide 2096 of the ORF31 coding sequence, which encodes glycoprotein B (gB) resulting in arginine (R) or glutamine (Q), respectively, at amino acid 699 of gB. By contrast, 2096A/699Q is dominant in vOka (.99.98%). gB699Q/gH/gL showed significantly less fusion activity than gB699R/gH/gL in a cell-based fusion assay. Recombinant pOka with gB669Q (rpOka_gB699Q) had a similar growth phenotype as vOka during lytic infection in cell culture including human primary skin cells; however, rpOka_gB699R showed a growth phenotype similar to pOka. rpOka_gB699R entered neurons from axonal terminals more efficiently than rpOka_gB699Q in the presence of cell membrane-derived vesicles containing gB. Strikingly, when a mixture of pOka with both alleles equally represented was used to infect human neurons from axon terminals, pOka with gB699R was dominant for virus entry. These results identify a variant allele in gB that contributes to attenuation of vOka. IMPORTANCE The live-attenuated varicella vaccine has reduced the burden of chickenpox. Despite its development in 1974, the molecular basis for its attenuation is still not well understood. Since the live-attenuated varicella vaccine is the only licensed human herpesvirus vaccine that prevents primary disease, it is important to understand the mechanism for its attenuation. Here we identify that a variant allele in glycoprotein B (gB) selected during generation of the varicella vaccine contributes to its attenuation. This variant is impaired for fusion, virus entry into neurons from nerve terminals, and replication in human skin cells. Identification of a variant allele in gB, one of the essential herpesvirus core genes, that contributes to its attenuation may provide insights that assist in the development of other herpesvirus vaccines.

Type: Article
Title: A Variant Allele in Varicella-Zoster Virus Glycoprotein B Selected during Production of the Varicella Vaccine Contributes to Its Attenuation
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1128/mbio.01864-22
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1128/mbio.01864-22
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: attenuation mechanism, glycoprotein B, live attenuated varicella vaccine, varicella-zoster virus, virus fusogen
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health > Infection, Immunity and Inflammation Dept
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10161236
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