We have successfully used antisense RNA to inhibit replication of the mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) in a cell culture system. MHV is a single-stranded RNA virus of positive polarity. Mouse L2 cells were stably transfected with an antisense construct that targets regions of genes 5 and 6 of the virus. High levels of expression from this construct, which is under control of the human elongation factor 1α promoter, were found. After infection of the antisense cell lines with MHV, replication of the virus was significantly reduced compared with control cells. In a viral plaque assay, smaller plaques were found in the antisense cell lines. In addition, up to a 92% inhibition in the number of viral particles produced in one antisense cell line could be seen. This inhibitory effect decreased at longer (>16 hour) infection times. It was possible to both increase the amount of inhibition and prolong the inhibitory effect by reducing the multiplicity of infection. Our results suggest that antisense RNA may be an effective tool to slow down progression of MHV infection in mice.
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