Akabane virus (AKAV) of the genus Orthobunyavirus in the family Bunyaviridae is an important animal pathogen; however, studies on AKAV biology are scarce. Therefore, we generated temperature-sensitive (ts) mutants of AKAV in order to study its pathogenesis. The ts AKAV mutants were generated by incubating the virulent OBE-1 strain with the chemical mutagen 5-fluorouracil. Each ts mutant was inoculated intracerebrally into mice to assess its virulence, and the genomic sequences of the attenuated mutants were also determined. Three of the twelve ts mutants studied showed a mortality rate of less than 10%. Although no mutation was detected in the S RNA segment of these three mutants, amino acid substitutions were observed in both the M and L RNA segments. Three of the mutants and the wild-type virus demonstrated a similar pattern of immunoreactivity in an ELISA with anti-Gc monoclonal antibodies. On the other hand, using a minireplicon system, the level of L protein activity of each ts mutant decreased as the temperature increased. These results suggest that the L RNA segment could be involved in the virulence of AKAV, which increases our understanding of how the viral gene products contribute to pathogenesis.
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