Bovine viral diarrhoea virus loses quasispecies diversity rapidly in culture

Microbial Genetics

Bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) is an important disease of cattle, with significant impacts on animal health and welfare. The wide host range of the causative pestiviruses may lead to formation of virus reservoirs in other ruminant or wildlife species, presenting a concern for the long-term success of BVD eradication campaigns. It is likely that the quasispecies nature of these RNA viruses contributes to their interspecies transmission by providing genetic plasticity. Understanding the spectrum of sequence variants present in persistently infected (PI) animals is, therefore, essential for studies of virus transmission. To analyse quasispecies diversity without amplification bias, we extracted viral RNA from the serum of a PI cow, and from cell culture fluid after three passages of the same virus in culture, to produce cDNA without amplification. Sequencing of this material using Illumina 250 bp paired-read technology produced full-length virus consensus sequences from both sources and demonstrated the quasispecies diversity of this pestivirus A genotype 1a field strain within serum and after culture. We report the distribution and diversity of over 800 SNPs and provide evidence for a loss of diversity after only three passages in cell culture, implying that cultured viruses cannot be used to understand quasispecies diversity and may not provide reliable molecular markers for source tracing or transmission studies. Additionally, both serum and cultured viruses could be sequenced as a set of 25 overlapping PCR amplicons that demonstrated the same consensus sequences and the presence of many of the same quasispecies variants. The observation that aspects of the quasispecies structure revealed by massively parallel sequencing are also detected after PCR and Sanger sequencing suggests that this approach may be useful for small or difficult to analyse samples.

George Russell 12

Dr George Russell

Molecular Virologist,

Moredun Research Institute