The mammalian reoviruses (serotype 1, strain Lang and serotype 3, strain Dearing) differ in their sensitivity to digestion by chymotrypsin. We have found that the M2 double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) genome segment (encoding the micro1C outer capsid polypeptide) is responsible for this property. In addition to determining response to protease treatement in vitro, we have found that the M2 genome segment also determines the ability of these two viruses successfully to initiate local and systemic infection in newborn mice after peroral inoculation. Thus the M2 dsRNA segment defines a new virulence gene of the mammalian reoviruses.

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