- The P4 promoter of the autonomous parvovirus Minute Virus of Mice (MVM) drives the production of its non-structural proteins, NS1 and NS2. The NS2 isoforms are without enzymatic activity but interact with cellular proteins. While NS2 is crucial to the viral life cycle in cultured murine cells, NS2-null mutant virus productively infects transformed host cells of other species. In the mouse, sensitivity to MVM infection is age dependent, exhibiting limited subclinical infections in adults, but sustained and potentially lethal infection in embryos. We therefore questioned whether the species-dependent requirement for NS2 function in vitro would be retained in utero. We report here that it is not. NS2-null mutant MVMp is capable of mounting a productive, albeit much reduced, infection of normal embryonic mouse cells in vivo. Based on the data, we hypothesize that NS2 may bear an as-yet undescribed immunosuppressive function.