In vitro infectious risk assessment of Heliothis virescens ascovirus 3j (HvAV-3j) toward non-target vertebrate cells.
As specific pathogens of noctuid pests, including Spodoptera exigua, S. litura, Helicoverpa armigera, and Mythimna separata, ascoviruses are suitable for the development of bioinsecticides. In this study, the infectivity of Heliothis virescens ascovirus 3j (HvAV-3j) on insect and mammalian cells was evaluated. HvAV-3j infection induced drastic morphological changes in Sf9, HzAM1, SeFB, and HaFB cells, including swelling and detachment. Notably, the latter phenomena did not occur in HvAV-3j-inoculated mammalian cells (HEK293, 7402, HePG2, PK15, ST, and TM3). MTT assays indicated that HvAV-3j inhibited the growth of host insect cells from the 6th hpi, but no effects were detected in the HvAV-3j-inoculated mammalian cells. Furthermore, viral DNA replication, gene transcription, and protein expression were investigated, and the results consistently suggested that HvAV-3j viruses were not able to replicate their genomic DNA, transcribe, or express their proteins in the non-target vertebrate cells. The HvAV-3j genes were only transcribed and expressed in the four insect cell lines. These results indicated that HvAV-3j was infectious to cells derived from S. frugiperda, S. exigua, H. armigera, and H. zea but not to cells derived from human, pig, and mouse, suggesting that ascoviruses are safe to non-target vertebrate cells.