The rotavirus NSP4 protein is cytotoxic when transiently expressed in cells and is capable of inducing secretory diarrhea in neonatal mice. NSP4 consists of 175 amino acids, and sequences important for its toxic effects have been mapped to the carboxy-terminal half of the protein. In this report, we compared NSP4-encoding nucleotide sequences recovered from cell lines engineered to express NSP4 from human rotavirus strain Wa with NSP4 sequences recovered from cells persistently infected with either Wa or simian rotavirus strain SA11. In cells stably transfected with Wa NSP4, we found that proline(138) was changed to either serine or threonine. However, in cells persistently infected with SA11, we found that phenylalanine(33) was changed to leucine, and in cells persistently infected with Wa, no changes were observed in NSP4. Expression of Wa NSP4 in Caco-2 cells resulted in increased cell-doubling times and decreased cell viability in comparison to cells expressing NSP4-serine(138) or NSP4-threonine(138). This result suggests that sequence polymorphism at residue 138 in Wa NSP4 influences the cytotoxicity of the protein. Therefore, mutations in the carboxy-terminal half of NSP4 are selected when NSP4 is expressed in cells in the absence of other viral proteins, but not in the context of viral replication. These findings suggest that cytotoxic functions of NSP4 are not operant during natural rotavirus infection.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.