Replication of attenuated poliovirus strains results in their partial deattenuation. Recently we identified mutations accumulating in the Sabin 1 poliovirus in cell cultures. Here we report genetic changes occurring in this virus during replication in the central nervous system (CNS) of monkeys. Viruses isolated from different parts of the CNS of rhesus monkeys (inoculated into the spinal cord) were screened for sequence heterogeneities and newly identified mutations were independently confirmed and quantified using mutant analysis by PCR and restriction enzyme cleavage (MAPREC). All consistently accumulating mutations identified in this study were located in untranslated regions: GU → AU or GU → GC substitution at a complementary pair formed by nucleotides 480 and 525, U → C substitution at nucleotide 612, and GU → AU or GU → GC substitution of a base pair formed by the nucleotides 7427/7441 immediately preceding the poly(A) tract. All these mutations except one (7427) were previously identified in cell culture passages or stool isolates from vaccinees. Sequencing of 11 CNS isolates also identified a few random silent mutations that accumulated as neutral ‘passengers’, passively coselected with genuinely selectable mutations present on the same RNA molecule. One isolate also contained the wild-type base at nucleotide 2741 (Ala → Thr in VP1). Our results demonstrate a remarkable genetic stability of the Sabin 1 poliovirus in the CNS of monkeys, suggesting that deattenuation is determined by a very limited number of mutations. These mutations can be assayed by MAPREC to monitor the consistency of oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) production.


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