Antigenic heterogeneity of a foot-and-mouth disease virus serotype in the field is mediated by very limited sequence variation at several antigenic sites.
Mateu MG., Hernández J., Martínez MA., Feigelstock D., Lea S., Pérez JJ., Giralt E., Stuart D., Palma EL., Domingo E.
Antigenic variation in a major discontinuous site (site D) of foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) of serotype C has been evaluated with neutralizing monoclonal antibodies. Isolates representing the major evolutionary sublines previously defined for serotype C were compared. Extensive variation, comparable to that of continuous epitopes within the hypervariable immunodominant site A (the VP1 G-H loop), was found. The amino acid sequences of the complete capsids of three antigenically highly divergent FMDVs (C1 Haute Loire-Fr/69, C5 Argentina/69, and C3 Argentina/85) have been determined and compared with the corresponding sequences previously determined for seven additional type C viruses. Differences in antigenicity are due to a very limited number of substitutions of surface amino acids accessible to antibodies and located within antigenic sites previously identified on FMDV. A significant number of residues at these positions were also replaced in monoclonal antibody escape mutants. Depending on the variants compared, replacements within site A or at site D, or at both sites, contributed significantly to their antigenic differences. Examples of divergence mediated by a few amino acid replacements were found among FMDVs of Europe and South America. The results suggest that within a serotype of FMDV, antigenically highly divergent viruses can arise in the field by very limited sequence variation at exposed key residues of each of several antigenic sites.