Mutations in the E2 glycoprotein and the 3' untranslated region enhance chikungunya virus virulence in mice

David W. Hawman, Kathryn S. Carpentier, Julie M. Fox, Nicholas A. May, Wes Sanders, Stephanie A. Montgomery, Nathaniel J. Moorman, Michael S. Diamond, Thomas E. Morrison

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22 Scopus citations


Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a mosquito-transmitted alphavirus that causes debilitating musculoskeletal pain and inflammation and can persist for months to years after acute infection. Although studies of humans and experimentally infected animals suggest that CHIKV infection persists in musculoskeletal tissues, the mechanisms for this remain poorly understood. To evaluate this further, we isolated CHIKV from the serum of persistently infected Rag1 -/- mice at day 28. When inoculated into naive wild-type (WT) mice, this persistently circulating CHIKV strain displayed a capacity for earlier dissemination and greater pathogenicity than the parental virus. Sequence analysis revealed a nonsynonymous mutation in the E2 glycoprotein (E2 K200R) and a deletion within the 3' untranslated region (3'-UTR). The introduction of these changes into the parental virus conferred enhanced virulence in mice, although primary tropism for musculoskeletal tissues was maintained. The E2 K200R mutation was largely responsible for enhanced viral dissemination and pathogenicity, although these effects were augmented by the 3'- UTR deletion. Finally, studies with Irf3/Irf7 -/- and Ifnar1 -/- mice suggest that the E2 K200R mutation enhances viral dissemination from the site of inoculation independently of interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3)-, IRF7-, and IFNAR1-mediated responses. As our findings reveal viral determinants of CHIKV dissemination and pathogenicity, their further study should help to elucidate host-virus interactions that determine acute and chronic CHIKV infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00816-17
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Alphavirus
  • Chikungunya virus
  • Viral pathogenesis
  • Virulence determinants


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