West Nile virus genetic diversity is maintained during transmission by Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus mosquitoes.

Department of Pathology, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States of America.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.53). 09/2011; 6(9):e24466. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0024466
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Due to error-prone replication, RNA viruses exist within hosts as a heterogeneous population of non-identical, but related viral variants. These populations may undergo bottlenecks during transmission that stochastically reduce variability leading to fitness declines. Such bottlenecks have been documented for several single-host RNA viruses, but their role in the population biology of obligate two-host viruses such as arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) in vivo is unclear, but of central importance in understanding arbovirus persistence and emergence. Therefore, we tracked the composition of West Nile virus (WNV; Flaviviridae, Flavivirus) populations during infection of the vector mosquito, Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus to determine whether WNV populations undergo bottlenecks during transmission by this host. Quantitative, qualitative and phylogenetic analyses of WNV sequences in mosquito midguts, hemolymph and saliva failed to document reductions in genetic diversity during mosquito infection. Further, migration analysis of individual viral variants revealed that while there was some evidence of compartmentalization, anatomical barriers do not impose genetic bottlenecks on WNV populations. Together, these data suggest that the complexity of WNV populations are not significantly diminished during the extrinsic incubation period of mosquitoes.

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