Since 1998, several serotypes of Bluetongue virus (BTV) have invaded several southern European countries. In 2006, the unknown BTV serotype 8 (BTV8/net06) unexpectedly invaded North-West Europe and has resulted in the largest BT-outbreak ever recorded. More recently, in 2008 BTV serotype 6 was reported in the Netherlands and Germany. This virus, BTV6/net08, is closely related to modified-live vaccine virus serotype 6, except for genome segment S10. This genome segment is closer related to that of vaccine virus serotype 2, and therefore BTV6/net08 is considered as a result of reassortment. Research on orbiviruses has been hampered by the lack of a genetic modification method. Recently, reverse genetics has been developed for BTV based on ten in vitro synthesized genomic RNAs. Here, we describe a targeted single-gene modification system for BTV based on the uptake of a single in vitro synthesized viral positive-stranded RNA. cDNAs corresponding to BTV8/net06 genome segments S7 and S10 were obtained by gene synthesis and cloned downstream of the T7 RNA-polymerase promoter and upstream of a unique site for a restriction enzyme at the 3'-terminus for run-off transcription. Monolayers of BSR cells were infected by BTV6/net08, and subsequently transfected with purified in vitro synthesized, capped positive-stranded S7 or S10 RNA from BTV8/net06 origin. "Synthetic" reassortants were rescued by endpoint dilutions, and identified by serotype-specific PCR-assays for segment 2, and serogroup-specific PCRs followed by restriction enzyme analysis or sequencing for S7 and S10 segments. The targeted single-gene modification system can also be used to study functions of viral proteins by uptake of mutated genome segments. This method is also useful to generate mutant orbiviruses for other serogroups of the genus Orbivirus for which reverse genetics has not been developed yet.
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