ArticlesEngineered Mutagenesis

Isolation of mutants of an animal virus in bacteria

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Science  19 Sep 1980:
Vol. 209, Issue 4463, pp. 1392-1396
DOI: 10.1126/science.6251547


Mutants of animal viruses can be isolated in bacteria by recombinant DNA methods. Since no viral functions are required for propagation of recombinants in bacteria, viral mutants with lethal changes in cis- or trans-acting elements can be isolated, as well as partially or conditionally defective mutants. In the cases of viruses with small DNA genomes, such as the tumorigenic simian virus 40 (SV40), the entire viral DNA can be inserted into the bacterial plasmid pBR322 and cloned in Escherichia coli. Recombinant plasmids with a single copy of SV40 DNA cause morphological transformation of mouse cells in culture with the same efficiency as SV40 DNA isolated from virus-infected monkey cells, but the recombinant DNA is noninfectious and replicates poorly in permissive cells. However, SV40 DNA excised from the plasmid replicates as well as authentic viral DNA and is fully infectious. SV40 mutants with small deletions or base substitutions have been isolated by in vitro site-specific or random local mutagenesis of recombinant DNA followed by cloning in E. coli. Many of the mutants thus isolated are defective in specific viral functions.