Mammalian orthoreoviruses (reoviruses) are highly tractable models for studies of viral replication and pathogenesis. The versatility of reovirus as an experimental model has been enhanced by development of a plasmid-based reverse genetics system. Infectious reovirus can be recovered from cells transfected with plasmids encoding cDNAs of each reovirus gene segment using a strategy that does not require helper virus and is independent of selection. In this system, transcription of each gene segment is driven by bacteriophage T7 RNA polymerase, which can be supplied transiently by recombinant vaccinia virus (rDIs-T7pol) or by cells that constitutively express the enzyme. Reverse genetics systems have been developed for two prototype reovirus strains, type 1 Lang (T1L) and type 3 Dearing (T3D). Each reovirus cDNA was encoded on an independent plasmid for the first-generation rescue system. The efficiency of virus recovery was enhanced in a second-generation system by combining the cDNAs for multiple reovirus gene segments onto single plasmids to reduce the number of plasmids from 10 to 4. The reduction in plasmid number and the use of baby hamster kidney cells that express T7 RNA polymerase increased the efficiency of viral rescue, reduced the incubation time required to recover infectious virus, and eliminated potential biosafety concerns associated with the use of recombinant vaccinia virus. Reovirus reverse genetics has been used to introduce mutations into viral capsid and nonstructural components to study viral protein-structure activity relationships and can be exploited to engineer recombinant reoviruses for vaccine and oncolytic applications.
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