A few-polyhedra mutant and wild-type nucleopolyhedrovirus remain as a stable polymorphism during serial coinfection in Trichoplusia ni.
Bull JC., Godfray HC., O'Reilly DR.
Few-polyhedra (FP) mutants of nucleopolyhedroviruses (NPVs) are a well-known phenomenon during serial passage of virus in cell culture. Under these circumstances such mutants produce low yields of occlusion bodies (OBs) and poorly occlude virions, but they are selected for through advantageous rates of budded virus replication. Spontaneous insertion of transposable elements originating from host cell DNA into the viral fp25 gene has been shown to be a common cause of the phenotype. A model of NPV population genetics predicts that mutants with these characteristics might persist within stable polymorphisms in viral populations during serial passage of virus in vivo. However, this hypothesis was previously untested, and FP mutants have not been recovered from field isolates of NPVs. We isolated and characterized an FP mutant that arose during routine passage of Autographa californica multinucleocapsid NPV (AcMNPV) in cell culture and identified a transposable element within the fp25 gene. We tracked the fates of coinfecting wild-type and FP mutant AcMNPV strains through serial passage in fifth-instar Trichoplusia ni larvae. The levels of both strains remained stable during successive rounds of infection. We applied the data obtained to a model of NPV population genetics in order to derive the frequency distribution of the multiplicity of cell infection in infected insects and estimated that 4.3 baculovirus genomes per OB-producing cell would account for this equilibrium.