The visna viruses are antigenically related nononcogenic retroviruses of sheep. The original strain was isolated from the brain of a paralyzed sheep in Iceland during the 1940s. The prototype strain has been passed serially in sheep and has undergone progressive antigenic change. Previous reports have shown that such antigenic changes in visna virus can be reproduced in infected cell cultures treated with neutralizing antibody. We now show that the antigenic profiles of the emerging mutants directly reflect the nature of the selecting antibody. Mutants with minor antigenic changes were selected by 'early' sera which had a limited neutralization range. Mutants with greater antigenic changes were selected by 'late' sera with a wide neutralization range. Mutants selected by early sera emerged rapidly and consistently in cultures, and these were antigenically very similar to one another. Mutants rarely emerged in cultures treated with late sera, but these viruses showed major antigenic changes. The data suggest that the evolution of antigenic mutants of visna virus progresses by a series of minor mutations which accumulate under the selective pressure of antibody.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases