Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 26038497
Emerg Microbes Infect 2014 Oct;3(10):e71
Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) is an enzootic virus circulating in Africa that is transmitted to its vertebrate host by a mosquito vector and causes severe clinical manifestations in humans and ruminants. RVFV has a tripartite genome of negative or ambisense polarity. The M segment contains five in-frame AUG codons that are alternatively used for the synthesis of two major structural glycoproteins, GN and GC, and at least two accessory proteins, NSm, a 14-kDa cytosolic protein, and P78/NSm-GN, a 78-kDa glycoprotein. To determine the relative contribution of P78 and NSm to RVFV infectivity, AUG codons were knocked out to generate mutant viruses expressing various sets of the M-encoded proteins. We found that, in the absence of the second AUG codon used to express NSm, a 13-kDa protein corresponding to an N-terminally truncated form of NSm, named NSm’, was synthesized from AUG 3. None of the individual accessory proteins had any significant impact on RVFV virulence in mice. However, a mutant virus lacking both NSm and NSm’ was strongly attenuated in mice and grew to reduced titers in murine macrophages, a major target cell type of RVFV. In contrast, P78 was not associated with reduced viral virulence in mice, yet it appeared as a major determinant of virus dissemination in mosquitoes. This study demonstrates how related accessory proteins differentially contribute to RVFV propagation in mammalian and arthropod hosts.