Poliovirus replication is limited to a few organs, including the brain and spinal cord. This restricted tropism may be a consequence of organ-specific differences in translation initiation by the poliovirus internal ribosome entry site (IRES). A C-to-U mutation at base 472 in the IRES of the Sabin type 3 poliovirus vaccine strain, known to attenuate neurovirulence, may further restrict tropism by eliminating viral replication in the CNS. To determine the relationship between IRES-mediated translation and poliovirus tropism, recombinant human adenoviruses were used to express bicistronic mRNAs in murine organs. The IRESs of poliovirus, the cardiotropic coxsackievirus B3 (CVB3), and the hepatotropic hepatitis C virus (HCV) mediate translation in many organs, including those that do not support viral replication. A translation defect associated with the Sabin type 3 IRES was observed in all organs examined. Poliovirus type 1 and recombinant polioviruses dependent on the IRES of CVB3 or HCV replicate in the CNS of mice and cause paralysis. Although the type 3 Sabin strain is an effective vaccine, polioviruses with a U at base 472 of the IRES cause paralysis in newborn mice. Tropism of wild-type and vaccine strains of poliovirus is therefore determined after internal ribosome entry.
Steven E. Kauder, Vincent R. Racaniello