The nonstructural region of the genome of the avirulent A7 strain of Semliki Forest virus (SFV) has been sequenced, so that the complete nucleotide sequence is available. Compared to the virulent SFV4 strain (produced from the infectious clone pSP6-SFV4), A7 contains 226 nucleotide changes in the translated region, which result in 47 amino acid changes. The 5' nontranslated region has two nucleotide changes, and the 3' nontranslated region is longer in A7 than SFV4, and contains divergent and repeated sequences. Chimeras containing SFV4 and A7 sequences and an infectious clone of A7, pSP6-CA7, were constructed. The virulence of these was tested by intraperitoneal and intranasal infection of adult BALB/c mice. It was shown that determination of the avirulent phenotype of A7 was polygenic, and required the additive effect of sequences from both the structural and non-structural regions of the SFV genome.


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