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The severely attenuated and host range (HR) restricted modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) was derived by >500 passages in chick embryo fibroblasts, during which multiple deletions and mutations occurred. To determine the basis of the HR defect, we prepared cosmids from the parental vaccinia virus Ankara genome and transfected them into nonpermissive monkey BS-C-1 cells that had been infected with MVA. Recombinant viruses that formed macroscopic plaques were detected after transfections with DNA segments that mapped near the left end of the viral genome. Plaque-forming viruses, generated by transfections with four individual cosmids and one pair of minimally overlapping cosmids, were purified, and their HRs were evaluated in BS-C-1 cells, rabbit RK-13 cells, and human HeLa, MRC-5, and A549 cells. The acquisition of the K1L and SPI-1 HR genes and the repair of large deletions were determined by polymerase chain reaction or pulse-field gel electrophoresis of NotI restriction enzyme digests of genomic DNA. The following results indicated the presence of previously unrecognized vaccinia virus HR genes: (1) the major mutations that restrict HR are within the left end of the MVA genome because the phenotypes of some recombinants approached that of the parental virus, (2) acquisition of the K1L gene correlated with the ability of recombinant viruses to propagate in RK-13 cells but did not enhance replication in human or monkey cell lines, (3) acquisition of the SPI-1 gene correlated with virus propagation in A549 cells but not with the extent of virus spread in monkey or other human cell lines, (4) there are at least two impaired HR genes because rescue occurred with nonoverlapping or minimally overlapping cosmids and recombinant viruses with intermediate HRs were isolated, and (5) at least one of the new HR genes did not map within any of the major deletions because the size of the left terminal NotI fragment was not appreciably altered in some recombinant viruses.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





334 - 342


National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, 20892, USA.


Hela Cells, Chick Embryo, Animals, Rabbits, Haplorhini, Humans, Vaccinia virus, DNA, Viral, Genetic Markers, Viral Vaccines, Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field, Restriction Mapping, Polymerase Chain Reaction, Virus Replication, Cosmids