Noroviruses (NoVs) are a leading cause of viral gastroenteritis. Despite global clinical relevance, our understanding of how host factors, such as antiviral cytokines interferons (IFNs), modulate NoV population dynamics is limited. Murine NoV (MNoV) is a tractable in vivo model for the study of host regulation of NoV. A persistent strain of MNoV, CR6, establishes a reservoir in intestinal tuft cells for chronic viral shedding in stool. However, the influence of host innate immunity and permissive cell numbers on viral population dynamics is an open question. We generated a pool of 20 different barcoded viruses (CR6BC) by inserting 6-nucleotide barcodes at the 3’ position of the NS4 gene and used this pool as our viral inoculum for in vivo infections of different mouse lines. We found that over the course of persistent CR6 infection, shed virus was predominantly colon-derived, and viral barcode richness decreased over time irrespective of host immune status, suggesting that persistent infection involves a series of reinfection events. In mice lacking the IFN-λ receptor, intestinal barcode richness was enhanced, correlating with increased viral intestinal replication. IL-4 treatment, which increases tuft cell numbers, also increased barcode richness, indicating the abundance of permissive tuft cells to be a bottleneck during CR6 infection. In mice lacking type I IFN signaling (Ifnar1-/-) or all IFN signaling (Stat1-/-), barcode diversity at extraintestinal sites was dramatically increased, implicating different IFNs as critical bottlenecks at specific tissue sites. Of interest, extraintestinal barcodes were overlapping but distinct from intestinal barcodes, indicating that disseminated virus represents a distinct viral population than that replicating in the intestine. Barcoded viruses are a valuable tool to explore the influence of host factors on viral diversity in the context of establishment and maintenance of infection as well as dissemination and have provided important insights into how NoV infection proceeds in immunocompetent and immunocompromised hosts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1011961
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number5 MAY
StatePublished - May 2024

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