An early block in the replication of the atypical bluetongue virus serotype 26 in Culicoides cells is determined by its capsid proteins

Arboviruses such as bluetongue virus (BTV) replicate in arthropod vectors involved in their transmission between susceptible vertebrate-hosts. The “classical” BTV strains infect and replicate effectively in cells of their insect-vectors (Culicoides biting-midges), as well as in those of their mammalian-hosts (ruminants). However, in the last decade, some “atypical” BTV strains, belonging to additional serotypes (e.g., BTV-26), have been found to replicate efficiently only in mammalian cells, while their replication is severely restricted in Culicoides cells. Importantly, there is evidence that these atypical BTV are transmitted by direct-contact between their mammalian hosts. Here, the viral determinants and mechanisms restricting viral replication in Culicoides were investigated using a classical BTV-1, an “atypical” BTV-26 and a BTV-1/BTV-26 reassortant virus, derived by reverse genetics. Viruses containing the capsid of BTV-26 showed a reduced ability to attach to Culicoides cells, blocking early steps of the replication cycle, while attachment and replication in mammalian cells was not restricted. The replication of BTV-26 was also severely reduced in other arthropod cells, derived from mosquitoes or ticks. The data presented identifies mechanisms and potential barriers to infection and transmission by the newly emerged “atypical” BTV strains in Culicoides.

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