Development of a foot-and-mouth disease virus replicon system for the study of RNA replication
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Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly infectious disease of wild and domestic cloven–hoofed animals such as cattle, swine and deer. It is caused by one of the most contagious animal diseases known; FMD virus (FMDV). Since the disease is endemic in many countries, transmission by international travel/trade presents an on-going potential threat to the UK. Very little is known at the molecular level about how FMDV replicates within host cells. In this study, FMDV replicons have been used to investigate FMDV RNA replication and to improve our understanding of the viral life cycle: a process which will aid in the production of a new generation of live-attenuated vaccine candidate strains. Sequences encoding the capsid coding region of the genome have been replaced with green fluorescent protein (GFP) such that replication can be monitored in live cells via GFP fluorescence. This provides a rapid, non-invasive screen for replicative fitness that can be used outwith high disease security facilities. Differences between replicating and non-replicating forms could easily be distinguished, highlighting the potential of this system to screen for attenuated genomes. The FMDV replicon system was improved through a series of construct modifications until an optimal system was produced. A range of different methods were used to attenuate the replication of these genomes. Of major significance is the finding that increasing dinucleotide frequencies were shown to decrease growth kinetics of Echovirus 7 – as opposed to altering the codon-pair bias - and the application of this finding to construction of further replicon systems (and RNA viruses in general) is described.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy