In the course of two experiments, an examination was made of the virulence and neuroinvasiveness for pigs of two pseudorabies virus mutants (strain 6C2TK(-), with a defect in thymidine kinase (TK) function; and strain 6C2TK(-), gI(-)/gE(-), with defects in TK and glycoproteins I and E) and of the wild-type parent strain (86/27V). At various times after intranasal inoculation, pigs were killed and samples of tonsil, lung and different levels of the trigeminal and olfactory nervous pathways were examined by methods that included viral isolation, polymerase chain reaction assay and immunohistochemistry. Both mutant viruses were of reduced virulence, as indicated by no more than moderate clinical signs and lesions, and only sporadic isolation of virus; moreover, unlike the wild-type parent strain, the mutant viruses were not reactivated from the latent state by corticosteroid treatment. In addition, migration of the mutant strains to the central nervous system (olfactory and trigeminal nervous pathways) was reduced as compared with that of the wild-type strain. Thus, mutations in the genes encoding the TK enzyme and the gI/gE complex were associated with reduced virulence, reduced replication in peripheral target tissues, and reduced migration to the olfactory and trigeminal pathways.
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