Two plaque-size variants of the neurotropic JHM strain of mouse hepatitis virus have been isolated from the virus stock after eight serial passages in suckling mouse brain. One variant, JHM-DL, produces large plaques, while the other, JHM-DS, produces small plaques in tissue culture. DS replicates more slowly, has a lower virus yield , and is less virulent for mice than DL. They also differ in their pathogenicity for mice: JHM-DL infection results in acute encephalomyelitis while JHM-DS infection results in demyelination. Oligonucleotide fingerprint analysis of the RNA genomes of these two variants revealed that they had almost identical genetic sequences. Each variant, however, had a unique oligonucleotide spot not found in the other. The unique spot of the large plaque variant, JHM-DL, was localized at approximately 3 to 5 kb from the 3′ end, while the JHM-DS unique spot was mapped at 14 to 15 kb from the 3′ end of the genome. We have further shown that these oligonucleotide changes are not correlated with the plaque morphology. These two viruses may be useful for studying the molecular basis of virus-induced demyelination.


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