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1.  ICAM-1-Based Rabies Virus Vaccine Shows Increased Infection and Activation of Primary Murine B Cells In Vitro and Enhanced Antibody Titers In-Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87098.
We have previously shown that live-attenuated rabies virus (RABV)-based vaccines infect and directly activate murine and human primary B cells in-vitro, which we propose can be exploited to help develop a single-dose RABV-based vaccine. Here we report on a novel approach to utilize the binding of Intracellular Adhesion Molecule-1 (ICAM-1) to its binding partner, Lymphocyte Function-associated Antigen-1 (LFA-1), on B cells to enhance B cell activation and RABV-specific antibody responses. We used a reverse genetics approach to clone, recover, and characterize a live-attenuated recombinant RABV-based vaccine expressing the murine Icam1 gene (rRABV-mICAM-1). We show that the murine ICAM-1 gene product is incorporated into virus particles, potentially exposing ICAM-1 to extracellular binding partners. While rRABV-mICAM-1 showed 10-100-fold decrease in viral titers on baby hamster kidney cells compared to the parental virus (rRABV), rRABV-mICAM-1 infected and activated primary murine B cells in-vitro more efficiently than rRABV, as indicated by significant upregulation of CD69, CD40, and MHCII on the surface of infected B cells. ICAM-1 expression on the virus surface was responsible for enhanced B cell infection since pre-treating rRABV-mICAM-1 with a neutralizing anti-ICAM-1 antibody reduced B cell infection to levels observed with rRABV alone. Furthermore, 100-fold less rRABV-mICAM-1 was needed to induce antibody titers in immunized mice equivalent to antibody titers observed in rRABV-immunized mice. Of note, only 103 focus forming units (ffu)/mouse of rRABV-mICAM-1 was needed to induce significant anti-RABV antibody titers as early as five days post-immunization. As both speed and potency of antibody responses are important in controlling human RABV infection in a post-exposure setting, these data show that expression of Icam1 from the RABV genome, which is then incorporated into the virus particle, is a promising strategy for the development of a single-dose RABV vaccine that requires only a minimum of virus.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087098
PMCID: PMC3906113  PMID: 24489846
2.  Investigating the Role for IL-21 in Rabies Virus Vaccine-induced Immunity 
Over two-thirds of the world's population lives in regions where rabies is endemic, resulting in over 15 million people receiving multi-dose post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and over 55,000 deaths per year globally. A major goal in rabies virus (RABV) research is to develop a single-dose PEP that would simplify vaccination protocols, reduce costs associated with RABV prevention, and save lives. Protection against RABV infections requires virus neutralizing antibodies; however, factors influencing the development of protective RABV-specific B cell responses remain to be elucidated. Here we used a mouse model of IL-21 receptor-deficiency (IL-21R−/−) to characterize the role for IL-21 in RABV vaccine-induced immunity. IL-21R−/− mice immunized with a low dose of a live recombinant RABV-based vaccine (rRABV) produced only low levels of primary or secondary anti-RABV antibody response while wild-type mice developed potent anti-RABV antibodies. Furthermore, IL-21R−/− mice immunized with low-dose rRABV were only minimally protected against pathogenic RABV challenge, while all wild-type mice survived challenge, indicating that IL-21R signaling is required for antibody production in response to low-dose RABV-based vaccination. IL-21R−/− mice immunized with a higher dose of vaccine produced suboptimal anti-RABV primary antibody responses, but showed potent secondary antibodies and protection similar to wild-type mice upon challenge with pathogenic RABV, indicating that IL-21 is dispensable for secondary antibody responses to live RABV-based vaccines when a primary response develops. Furthermore, we show that IL-21 is dispensable for the generation of Tfh cells and memory B cells in the draining lymph nodes of immunized mice but is required for the detection of optimal GC B cells or plasma cells in the lymph node or bone marrow, respectively, in a vaccine dose-dependent manner. Collectively, our preliminary data show that IL-21 is critical for the development of optimal vaccine-induced primary but not secondary antibody responses against RABV infections.
Author Summary
Over two-thirds of the world's population lives in regions where rabies is endemic, resulting in over 15 million people receiving post-exposure treatment. A person, disproportionately a child, dies of rabies every 20 minutes and the cost of rabies prevention exceeds $1 billion US dollars per year. The development of a single-dose human rabies vaccine would greatly reduce the burden of rabies globally by lowering the cost associated with rabies vaccination and saving lives. Understanding how B cells develop to produce protective virus neutralizing antibodies would greatly help to achieve the goal of developing a single-dose vaccine. In this report, we show that IL-21 is critical for the induction of primary vaccine-induced anti-RABV G antibody titers and that the effects of IL-21 are highly dependent on the dose of vaccine administered. In our model of rabies immunogenicity and protection, the lack of IL-21 receptor influenced the detection of B cells in germinal centers in lymph nodes or of plasma cells in bone marrow after immunization with low or high doses of vaccine, respectively. Overall, these preliminary results indicate that IL-21 has the potential to influence B cell development and functions in the context of rabies vaccine-induced immunity and protection.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002129
PMCID: PMC3597479  PMID: 23516660
3.  Rabies Virus Infection Induces Type I Interferon Production in an IPS-1 Dependent Manner While Dendritic Cell Activation Relies on IFNAR Signaling 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(7):e1001016.
As with many viruses, rabies virus (RABV) infection induces type I interferon (IFN) production within the infected host cells. However, RABV has evolved mechanisms by which to inhibit IFN production in order to sustain infection. Here we show that RABV infection of dendritic cells (DC) induces potent type I IFN production and DC activation. Although DCs are infected by RABV, the viral replication is highly suppressed in DCs, rendering the infection non-productive. We exploited this finding in bone marrow derived DCs (BMDC) in order to differentiate which pattern recognition receptor(s) (PRR) is responsible for inducing type I IFN following infection with RABV. Our results indicate that BMDC activation and type I IFN production following a RABV infection is independent of TLR signaling. However, IPS-1 is essential for both BMDC activation and IFN production. Interestingly, we see that the BMDC activation is primarily due to signaling through the IFNAR and only marginally induced by the initial infection. To further identify the receptor recognizing RABV infection, we next analyzed BMDC from Mda-5−/− and RIG-I−/− mice. In the absence of either receptor, there is a significant decrease in BMDC activation at 12h post infection. However, only RIG-I−/− cells exhibit a delay in type I IFN production. In order to determine the role that IPS-1 plays in vivo, we infected mice with pathogenic RABV. We see that IPS-1−/− mice are more susceptible to infection than IPS-1+/+ mice and have a significantly increased incident of limb paralysis.
Author Summary
Rabies virus (RABV) is a neurotropic RNA virus responsible for the deaths of the at least 40,000 to 70,000 individuals globally each year. However, the innate immune response induced by both wildtype and vaccine strains of RABV is not well understood. In this study, we assessed the pattern recognition receptors involved in the host immune response to RABV in bone marrow derived dendritic cells (DC). Our studies revealed that Toll like receptor (TLR) signaling is not required to induce innate responses to RABV. On the other hand, we see that IPS-1, the adaptor protein for RIG-I like receptor (RLR) signaling, is essential for induction of innate immune responses. Furthermore, we found that RIG-I and Mda-5, both RLRs, are able to induce DC activation and type I interferon production. This finding is significant as we can target unused pattern recognition receptors with recombinant RABV vaccine strains to elicit a varied, and potentially protective, immune response. Lastly, we show that IPS-1 plays an important role in mediating the pathogenicity of RABV and preventing RABV associated paralysis. Overall, this study illustrates that RLRs are essential for recognition of RABV infection and that the subsequent host cell signaling is required to prevent disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1001016
PMCID: PMC2908622  PMID: 20661430
4.  Enhancement of Blood-Brain Barrier Permeability and Reduction of Tight Junction Protein Expression Are Modulated by Chemokines/Cytokines Induced by Rabies Virus Infection 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(9):4698-4710.
ABSTRACT
Infection with laboratory-attenuated rabies virus (RABV) enhances blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability, which has been demonstrated to be an important factor for host survival, since it allows immune effectors to enter the central nervous system (CNS) and clear RABV. To probe the mechanism by which RABV infection enhances BBB permeability, the expression of tight junction (TJ) proteins in the CNS was investigated following intracranial inoculation with laboratory-attenuated or wild-type (wt) RABV. BBB permeability was significantly enhanced in mice infected with laboratory-attenuated, but not wt, RABV. The expression levels of TJ proteins (claudin-5, occludin, and zonula occludens-1) were decreased in mice infected with laboratory-attenuated, but not wt, RABV, suggesting that enhancement of BBB permeability is associated with the reduction of TJ protein expression in RABV infection. RABV neither infects the brain microvascular endothelial cells (BMECs) nor modulates the expression of TJ proteins in BMECs. However, brain extracts prepared from mice infected with laboratory-attenuated, but not wt, RABV reduced TJ protein expression in BMECs. It was found that brain extracts from mice infected with laboratory-attenuated RABV contained significantly higher levels of inflammatory chemokines/cytokines than those from mice infected with wt RABV. Pathway analysis indicates that gamma interferon (IFN-γ) is located in the center of the cytokine network in the RABV-infected mouse brain, and neutralization of IFN-γ reduced both the disruption of BBB permeability in vivo and the downregulation of TJ protein expression in vitro. These findings indicate that the enhancement of BBB permeability and the reduction of TJ protein expression are due not to RABV infection per se but to virus-induced inflammatory chemokines/cytokines.
IMPORTANCE Previous studies have shown that infection with only laboratory-attenuated, not wild-type, rabies virus (RABV) enhances blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability, allowing immune effectors to enter the central nervous system (CNS) and clear RABV from the CNS. This study investigated the mechanism by which RABV infection enhances BBB permeability. It was found that RABV infection enhances BBB permeability by downregulation of tight junction (TJ) protein expression in the brain microvasculature. It was further found that it is not RABV infection per se but the chemokines/cytokines induced by RABV infection that downregulate the expression of TJ proteins and enhance BBB permeability. Blocking some of these cytokines, such as IFN-γ, ameliorated both the disruption of BBB permeability and the downregulation of TJ protein expression. These studies may provide a foundation for developing therapeutics for clinical rabies, such as medication that could be used to enhance BBB permeability.
doi:10.1128/JVI.03149-13
PMCID: PMC3993813  PMID: 24522913
5.  Inactivated or Live-Attenuated Bivalent Vaccines That Confer Protection against Rabies and Ebola Viruses ▿  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(20):10605-10616.
The search for a safe and efficacious vaccine for Ebola virus continues, as no current vaccine candidate is nearing licensure. We have developed (i) replication-competent, (ii) replication-deficient, and (iii) chemically inactivated rabies virus (RABV) vaccines expressing Zaire Ebola virus (ZEBOV) glycoprotein (GP) by a reverse genetics system based on the SAD B19 RABV wildlife vaccine. ZEBOV GP is efficiently expressed by these vaccine candidates and is incorporated into virions. The vaccine candidates were avirulent after inoculation of adult mice, and viruses with a deletion in the RABV glycoprotein had greatly reduced neurovirulence after intracerebral inoculation in suckling mice. Immunization with live or inactivated RABV vaccines expressing ZEBOV GP induced humoral immunity against each virus and conferred protection from both lethal RABV and EBOV challenge in mice. The bivalent RABV/ZEBOV vaccines described here have several distinct advantages that may speed the development of inactivated vaccines for use in humans and potentially live or inactivated vaccines for use in nonhuman primates at risk of EBOV infection in endemic areas.
doi:10.1128/JVI.00558-11
PMCID: PMC3187516  PMID: 21849459
6.  Rabies Virus Expressing Dendritic Cell-Activating Molecules Enhances the Innate and Adaptive Immune Response to Vaccination ▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;85(4):1634-1644.
Our previous studies indicated that recruitment and/or activation of dendritic cells (DCs) is important in enhancing the protective immune responses against rabies virus (RABV) (L. Zhao, H. Toriumi, H. Wang, Y. Kuang, X. Guo, K. Morimoto, and Z. F. Fu, J. Virol. 84:9642-9648). To address the importance of DC activation for RABV vaccine efficacy, the genes for several DC recruitment and/or activation molecules, e.g., granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), macrophage-derived chemokine (MDC), and macrophage inflammatory protein 1α (MIP-1α), were individually cloned into RABV. The ability of these recombinant viruses to activate DCs was determined in vitro and in vivo. Infection of mouse bone marrow-derived DCs with each of the recombinant viruses resulted in DC activation, as shown by increased surface expression of CD11c and CD86 as well as an increased level of alpha interferon (IFN-α) production compared to levels observed after infection with the parent virus. Intramuscular infection of mice with each of the viruses recruited and/or activated more DCs and B cells in the periphery than infection with the parent virus, leading to the production of higher levels of virus-neutralizing antibodies. Furthermore, a single immunization with recombinant RABV expressing GM-CSF or MDC protected significantly more mice against intracerebral challenge with virulent RABV than did immunization with the parental virus. Yet, these viruses did not show more virulence than the parent virus, since direct intracerebral inoculation with each virus at up to 1 × 107 fluorescent focus units each did not induce any overt clinic symptom, such as abnormal behavior, or any neurological signs. Together, these data indicate that recombinant RABVs expressing these molecules activate/recruit DCs and enhance protective immune responses.
doi:10.1128/JVI.01552-10
PMCID: PMC3028913  PMID: 21106736
7.  Adeno-Associated Viruses Serotype 2-Mediated RNA Interference Efficiently Inhibits Rabies Virus Replication In Vitro and In Vivo 
ABSTRACT
To investigate the potential of adeno-associated viruses serotype 2 (AAV2)-mediated RNA interference (RNAi) as an antiviral agent against rabies, recombinant AAV2 vectors expressing siRNA targeting the nucleoprotein (N) gene of rabies virus (RABV) (rAAV-N796) were constructed and evaluated. When NA cells pretreated with rAAV-N796 were challenged with RABV, there was a 37.8 ± 3.4% to 55.1 ± 5.3% reduction in RABV virus titer. When cells pre-challenged with RABV were treated with rAAV-N796, there was a 4.4 ± 1.4 to 28.8 ± 3.2% reduction in RABV virus titer. Relative quantification of RABV transcripts using real-time PCR and Western blot revealed that the knockdown of RABV-N gene transcripts was based on the rAAV-N796 inoculation titer. When any NA cells were treated with rAAV-N796 before or after challenged with RABV, significant reduction in virus titer was observed in both administrations. Mice treated intracerebrally with rAAV-N796 exhibited 50 ± 5.3 and 62.5 ± 4.7% protection when challenged intracerebrally or intramuscally, respectively, with lethal RABV. When mice treated intramuscularly with rAAV-N796 were challenged intramuscularly with lethal RABV, they exhibited 37.5 ± 3.7% protection. When mice were intracerebrally and intramuscularly with rAAV-N796 24 hr after exposure to RABV infection, they exhibited 25 ± 4.1% protection The N gene mRNA levels in the brains of challenged mice with three different administrations were reduced (55, 68, 32 and 25%, respectively). These results indicated that AAV2 vector-mediated siRNA delivery in vitro in NA cells inhibited RABV multiplication, inhibited RABV multiplication in vivo in the mice brain and imparted partial protection against lethal rabies. So, it may have a potential to be used as an alternative antiviral approach against rabies.
doi:10.1292/jvms.13-0127
PMCID: PMC3942934  PMID: 23774028
AAV2 vectors; inhibit; N gene; RABV; siRNA
8.  Intramuscular Inoculation of Mice with the Live-Attenuated Recombinant Rabies Virus TriGAS Results in a Transient Infection of the Draining Lymph Nodes and a Robust, Long-Lasting Protective Immune Response against Rabies 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(3):1834-1841.
A single intramuscular application of the live but not UV-inactivated recombinant rabies virus (RABV) variant TriGAS in mice induces the robust and sustained production of RABV-neutralizing antibodies that correlate with long-term protection against challenge with an otherwise lethal dose of the wild-type RABV. To obtain insight into the mechanism by which live TriGAS induces long-lasting protective immunity, quantitative PCR (qPCR) analysis of muscle tissue, draining lymph nodes, spleen, spinal cord, and brain at different times after TriGAS inoculation revealed the presence of significant copy numbers of RABV-specific RNA in muscle, lymph node, and to a lesser extent, spleen for several days postinfection. Notably, no significant amounts of RABV RNA were detected in brain or spinal cord at any time after TriGAS inoculation. Differential qPCR analysis revealed that the RABV-specific RNA detected in muscle is predominantly genomic RNA, whereas RABV RNA detected in draining lymph nodes is predominantly mRNA. Comparison of genomic RNA and mRNA obtained from isolated lymph node cells showed the highest mRNA-to-genomic-RNA ratios in B cells and dendritic cells (DCs), suggesting that these cells represent the major cell population that is infected in the lymph node. Since RABV RNA declined to undetectable levels by 14 days postinoculation of TriGAS, we speculate that a transient infection of DCs with TriGAS may be highly immunostimulatory through mechanisms that enhance antigen presentation. Our results support the superior efficacy and safety of TriGAS and advocate for its utility as a vaccine.
doi:10.1128/JVI.02589-12
PMCID: PMC3554143  PMID: 23192867
9.  Further characterization of the immune response in mice to inactivated and live rabies vaccines expressing Ebola virus glycoprotein 
Vaccine  2012;30(43):6136-6141.
We have previously developed (a) replication-competent, (b) replication-deficient, and (c) chemically inactivated rabies virus (RABV) vaccines expressing ebolavirus (EBOV) glycoprotein (GP) that induce humoral immunity against each virus and confer protection from both lethal RABV and mouse-adapted EBOV challenge in mice. Here, we expand our investigation of the immunogenic properties of these bivalent vaccines in mice. Both live and killed vaccines induced primary EBOV GP-specific T-cells and a robust recall response as measured by interferon-γ ELISPOT assay. In addition to cellular immunity, an effective filovirus vaccine will likely require a multivalent humoral immune response against multiple virus species. As a proof-of-principle experiment, we demonstrated that inactivated RV-GP could be formulated with another inactivated RABV vaccine expressing the nontoxic fragment of botulinum neurotoxin A heavy chain (HC50) without a reduction in immunity to each component. Finally, we demonstrated that humoral immunity to GP could be induced by immunization of mice with inactivated RV-GP in the presence of pre-existing immunity to RABV. The ability of these novel vaccines to induce strong humoral and cellular immunity indicates that they should be further evaluated in additional animal models of infection.
doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2012.07.073
PMCID: PMC3434297  PMID: 22884661
Ebola virus; rabies virus; vaccine; T cell; multivalent; platform
10.  Single Domain Antibody Multimers Confer Protection against Rabies Infection 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71383.
Post-exposure prophylactic (PEP) neutralizing antibodies against Rabies are the most effective way to prevent infection-related fatality. The outer envelope glycoprotein of the Rabies virus (RABV) is the most significant surface antigen for generating virus-neutralizing antibodies. The small size and uncompromised functional specificity of single domain antibodies (sdAbs) can be exploited in the fields of experimental therapeutic applications for infectious diseases through formatting flexibilities to increase their avidity towards target antigens. In this study, we used phage display technique to select and identify sdAbs that were specific for the RABV glycoprotein from a naïve llama-derived antibody library. To increase their neutralizing potencies, the sdAbs were fused with a coiled-coil peptide derived from the human cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP48) to form homogenous pentavalent multimers, known as combodies. Compared to monovalent sdAbs, the combodies, namely 26424 and 26434, exhibited high avidity and were able to neutralize 85-fold higher input of RABV (CVS-11 strain) pseudotypes in vitro, as a result of multimerization, while retaining their specificities for target antigen. 26424 and 26434 were capable of neutralizing CVS-11 pseudotypes in vitro by 90–95% as compared to human rabies immunoglobulin (HRIG), currently used for PEP in Rabies. The multimeric sdAbs were also demonstrated to be partially protective for mice that were infected with lethal doses of rabies virus in vivo. The results demonstrate that the combodies could be valuable tools in understanding viral mechanisms, diagnosis and possible anti-viral candidate for RABV infection.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071383
PMCID: PMC3748109  PMID: 23977032
11.  Intracerebral Administration of Recombinant Rabies Virus Expressing GM-CSF Prevents the Development of Rabies after Infection with Street Virus 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e25414.
Recently it was found that prior immunization with recombinant rabies virus (RABV) expressing granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) (LBNSE-GM-CSF) resulted in high innate/adaptive immune responses and protection against challenge with virulent RABV (Wen et al., JVI, 2011). In this study, the ability of LBNSE-GM-CSF to prevent animals from developing rabies was investigated in mice after infection with lethal doses of street RABV. It was found that intracerebral administration of LBNSE-GM-CSF protected more mice from developing rabies than sham-treated mice as late as day 5 after infection with street RABV. Intracerebral administration of LBNSE-GM-CSF resulted in significantly higher levels of chemokine/cytokine expression and more infiltration of inflammatory and immune cells into the central nervous system (CNS) than sham-administration or administration with UV-inactivated LBNSE-GM-CSF. Enhancement of blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability and increases in virus neutralizing antibodies (VNA) were also observed in mice treated with LBNSE-GM-CSF. On the other hand, intracerebral administration with UV-inactivated LBNSE-GM-CSF did not increase protection despite the fact that VNA were induced in the periphery. However, intracerebral administration with chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1, also termed CCL2) increased significantly the protective efficacy of UV-inactivated LBNSE-GM-CSF. Together these studies confirm that direct administration of LBNSE-GM-CSF can enhance the innate and adaptive immunity as well as the BBB permeability, thus allowing infiltration of inflammatory cells and other immune effectors enter into the CNS to clear the virus and prevent the development of rabies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025414
PMCID: PMC3182207  PMID: 21980450
12.  Rabies Virus Hijacks and Accelerates the p75NTR Retrograde Axonal Transport Machinery 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(8):e1004348.
Rabies virus (RABV) is a neurotropic virus that depends on long distance axonal transport in order to reach the central nervous system (CNS). The strategy RABV uses to hijack the cellular transport machinery is still not clear. It is thought that RABV interacts with membrane receptors in order to internalize and exploit the endosomal trafficking pathway, yet this has never been demonstrated directly. The p75 Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) receptor (p75NTR) binds RABV Glycoprotein (RABV-G) with high affinity. However, as p75NTR is not essential for RABV infection, the specific role of this interaction remains in question. Here we used live cell imaging to track RABV entry at nerve terminals and studied its retrograde transport along the axon with and without the p75NTR receptor. First, we found that NGF, an endogenous p75NTR ligand, and RABV, are localized in corresponding domains along nerve tips. RABV and NGF were internalized at similar time frames, suggesting comparable entry machineries. Next, we demonstrated that RABV could internalize together with p75NTR. Characterizing RABV retrograde movement along the axon, we showed the virus is transported in acidic compartments, mostly with p75NTR. Interestingly, RABV is transported faster than NGF, suggesting that RABV not only hijacks the transport machinery but can also manipulate it. Co-transport of RABV and NGF identified two modes of transport, slow and fast, that may represent a differential control of the trafficking machinery by RABV. Finally, we determined that p75NTR-dependent transport of RABV is faster and more directed than p75NTR-independent RABV transport. This fast route to the neuronal cell body is characterized by both an increase in instantaneous velocities and fewer, shorter stops en route. Hence, RABV may employ p75NTR-dependent transport as a fast mechanism to facilitate movement to the CNS.
Author Summary
Rabies virus (RABV) is a neurotropic virus that depends on long distance axonal transport in order to reach the central nervous system (CNS). The strategy RABV uses to hijack the cellular transport machinery is unknown. Here we use live cell imaging to track RABV entry at nerve terminals and study its retrograde transport along the axon. First, we demonstrate that RABV interacts with the p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR) at peripheral neuron tips to enter the axon. Then, characterizing RABV retrograde transport along the axon, we showed that the virus moves in acidic compartments, mostly with p75NTR. Interestingly, RABV is transported faster than NGF, an endogenous p75NTR ligand. Finally, we determine that p75NTR-dependent transport of RABV is faster and more directed than p75NTR-independent RABV transport. Hence, RABV not only exploits the neurotrophin transport machinery, but also has a positive influence on transport kinetics, thus facilitating its own arrival at the CNS.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1004348
PMCID: PMC4148448  PMID: 25165859
13.  Antibody Quality and Protection from Lethal Ebola Virus Challenge in Nonhuman Primates Immunized with Rabies Virus Based Bivalent Vaccine 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(5):e1003389.
We have previously described the generation of a novel Ebola virus (EBOV) vaccine platform based on (a) replication-competent rabies virus (RABV), (b) replication-deficient RABV, or (c) chemically inactivated RABV expressing EBOV glycoprotein (GP). Mouse studies demonstrated safety, immunogenicity, and protective efficacy of these live or inactivated RABV/EBOV vaccines. Here, we evaluated these vaccines in nonhuman primates. Our results indicate that all three vaccines do induce potent immune responses against both RABV and EBOV, while the protection of immunized animals against EBOV was largely dependent on the quality of humoral immune response against EBOV GP. We also determined if the induced antibodies against EBOV GP differ in their target, affinity, or the isotype. Our results show that IgG1-biased humoral responses as well as high levels of GP-specific antibodies were beneficial for the control of EBOV infection after immunization. These results further support the concept that a successful EBOV vaccine needs to induce strong antibodies against EBOV. We also showed that a dual vaccine against RABV and filoviruses is achievable; therefore addressing concerns for the marketability of this urgently needed vaccine.
Author Summary
Ebola virus (EBOV) has been associated with outbreaks in human and nonhuman primate populations since 1976. With a fatality rate approaching 90%, EBOV is one of the most lethal infectious diseases in humans. The increased frequency of EBOV outbreaks along with its potential to be used as a bioterrorism agent has dramatically strengthened filovirus vaccine research and development. While there are currently no approved vaccines or post exposure treatments available for human use, several vaccine candidates have shown to protect nonhuman primates from lethal EBOV challenge. Our primary focus is to develop vaccine candidates to protect humans and endangered wildlife species at risk of infection in Africa. Here, we evaluated the efficacy and immunogenicity of our dual vaccines against EBOV and rabies virus (RABV) in rhesus macaques. Our live replication-competent vaccine provided 100% protection following EBOV challenge while the replication-deficient and inactivated candidates provided 50% protection. Interestingly, protection is dependent on the quality of the antibodies rather than the quantity. All three RABV-based EBOV vaccines did induce antibody levels necessary for protection from RABV infection. These results encourage the further development of these novel dual vaccines directed against two of the most lethal viral diseases.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003389
PMCID: PMC3667758  PMID: 23737747
14.  Reinvestigating the Role of IgM in Rabies Virus Postexposure Vaccination 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(16):9217-9222.
B cells secreting IgG antibodies, but not IgM, are thought to be solely responsible for vaccine-induced protection against rabies virus (RABV) infections in postexposure settings. In this report, we reinvestigated the potential for IgM to mediate protection in a mouse model of RABV vaccination. Immunocompetent mice immunized with an experimental live replication-deficient RABV-based vaccine produced virus neutralizing antibodies (VNAs) within 3 days of vaccination. However, mice unable to produce soluble IgM (sIgM−/−) did not produce VNAs until 7 days postimmunization. Furthermore, sIgM−/− mice were not protected against RABV infection when challenged 3 days postimmunization, while all wild-type mice survived challenge. Consistent with the lack of protection against pathogenic RABV challenge, approximately 50- to 100-fold higher viral loads of challenge virus were detected in the muscle, spinal cord, and brain of immunized sIgM−/− mice compared to control mice. In addition, IgG antibody titers in vaccinated wild-type and sIgM−/− mice were similar at all time points postimmunization, suggesting that protection against RABV challenge is due to the direct effects of IgM and not the influence of IgM on the development of effective IgG antibody titers. In all, early vaccine-induced IgM can limit dissemination of pathogenic RABV to the central nervous system and mediate protection against pathogenic RABV challenge. Considering the importance for the rapid induction of VNAs to protect against RABV infections in postexposure prophylaxis settings, these findings may help guide the development of a single-dose human rabies vaccine.
doi:10.1128/JVI.00995-13
PMCID: PMC3754079  PMID: 23760250
15.  A Recombinant Rabies Virus Encoding Two Copies of the Glycoprotein Gene Confers Protection in Dogs against a Virulent Challenge 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87105.
The rabies virus (RABV) glycoprotein (G) is the principal antigen responsible for the induction of virus neutralizing antibodies (VNA) and is the major modality of protective immunity in animals. A recombinant RABV HEP-Flury strain was generated by reverse genetics to encode two copies of the G-gene (referred to as HEP-dG). The biological properties of HEP-dG were compared to those of the parental virus (HEP-Flury strain). The HEP-dG recombinant virus grew 100 times more efficiently in BHK-21 cell than the parental virus, yet the virulence of the dG recombinant virus in suckling mice was lower than the parental virus. The HEP-dG virus can improve the expression of G-gene mRNA and the G protein and produce more offspring viruses in cells. The amount of G protein revealed a positive relationship with immunogenicity in mice and dogs. The inactivated HEP-dG recombinant virus induced higher levels of VNA and conferred better protection against virulent RABV in mice and dogs than the inactivated parental virus and a commercial vaccine. The protective antibody persisted for at least 12 months. These data demonstrate that the HEP-dG is stable, induces a strong VNA response and confers protective immunity more effectively than the RABV HEP-Flury strain. HEP-dG could be a potential candidate in the development of novel inactivated rabies vaccines
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087105
PMCID: PMC3911940  PMID: 24498294
16.  Limited Brain Metabolism Changes Differentiate between the Progression and Clearance of Rabies Virus 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e87180.
Central nervous system (CNS) metabolic profiles were examined from rabies virus (RABV)-infected mice that were either mock-treated or received post-exposure treatment (PET) with a single dose of the live recombinant RABV vaccine TriGAS. CNS tissue harvested from mock-treated mice at middle and late stage infection revealed numerous changes in energy metabolites, neurotransmitters and stress hormones that correlated with replication levels of viral RNA. Although the large majority of these metabolic changes were completely absent in the brains of TriGAS-treated mice most likely due to the strong reduction in virus spread, TriGAS treatment resulted in the up-regulation of the expression of carnitine and several acylcarnitines, suggesting that these compounds are neuroprotective. The most striking change seen in mock-treated RABV-infected mice was a dramatic increase in brain and serum corticosterone levels, with the later becoming elevated before clinical signs or loss of body weight occurred. We speculate that the rise in corticosterone is part of a strategy of RABV to block the induction of immune responses that would otherwise interfere with its spread. In support of this concept, we show that pharmacological intervention to inhibit corticosterone biosynthesis, in the absence of vaccine treatment, significantly reduces the pathogenicity of RABV. Our results suggest that widespread metabolic changes, including hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activation, contribute to the pathogenesis of RABV and that preventing these alterations early in infection with PET or pharmacological blockade helps protect brain homeostasis, thereby reducing disease mortality.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087180
PMCID: PMC3998930  PMID: 24763072
17.  A New Rabies Vaccine Based on a Recombinant Orf Virus (Parapoxvirus) Expressing the Rabies Virus Glycoprotein 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(3):1618-1630.
The present study describes the generation of a new Orf virus (ORFV) recombinant, D1701-V-RabG, expressing the rabies virus (RABV) glycoprotein that is correctly presented on the surface of infected cells without the need of replication or production of infectious recombinant virus. One single immunization with recombinant ORFV can stimulate high RABV-specific virus-neutralizing antibody (VNA) titers in mice, cats, and dogs, representing all nonpermissive hosts for the ORFV vector. The protective immune response against severe lethal challenge infection was analyzed in detail in mice using different dosages, numbers, and routes for immunization with the ORFV recombinant. Long-term levels of VNA could be elicited that remained greater than 0.5 IU per ml serum, indicative for the protective status. Single applications of higher doses (107 PFU) can be sufficient to confer complete protection against intracranial (i.c.) challenge, whereas booster immunization was needed for protection by the application of lower dosages. Anamnestic immune responses were achieved by each of the seven tested routes of inoculation, including oral application. Finally, in vivo antibody-mediated depletion of CD4-positive and/or CD8-posititve T cell subpopulations during immunization and/or challenge infection attested the importance of CD4 T cells for the induction of protective immunity by D1701-V-RabG. This report demonstrates another example of the potential of the ORFV vector and also indicates the capability of the new recombinant for vaccination of animals.
doi:10.1128/JVI.02470-12
PMCID: PMC3554190  PMID: 23175365
18.  Rabies virus glycoprotein is an important determinant for the induction of innate immune responses and the pathogenic mechanisms 
Veterinary microbiology  2012;162(2-4):601-613.
Our previous studies have suggested that street and fixed rabies viruses (RABV) induce diseases in the mouse model via different mechanisms. In the present study, attempts were made to determine if it is the glycoprotein (G) that is responsible for the observed differences in the pathogenic mechanisms. To this end, an infectious clone from fixed virus B2c was established and used as a backbone for exchange of the G from street viruses. The rate of viral replication, expression of viral proteins, and the induction of innate immune responses were compared in cells or in mice infected with each of the viruses. Furthermore, the infiltration of inflammatory cells into the CNS and the enhancement of blood-brain-barrier (BBB) permeability were also compared. It was found that fixed viruses induced stronger innate immune responses (expression of chemokines, infiltration of inflammatory cells, and enhancement of BBB permeability) than street RABV or recombinant viruses expressing the G from street RABVs. Fixed viruses induce disease via an immune-mediated pathogenic mechanism while street viruses or recombinant viruses expressing the G from street RABVs induce diseases via a mechanism other than immune-mediated pathogenesis. Therefore, RABV G is an important determinant for the induction of innate immune responses and consequently the pathogenic mechanisms.
doi:10.1016/j.vetmic.2012.11.031
PMCID: PMC3568536  PMID: 23265241
Rabies virus; innate immune response; inflammation; blood brain barrier
19.  The Roles of Chemokines in Rabies Virus Infection: Overexpression May Not Always Be Beneficial▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(22):11808-11818.
It was found previously that induction of innate immunity, particularly chemokines, is an important mechanism of rabies virus (RABV) attenuation. To evaluate the effect of overexpression of chemokines on RABV infection, chemokines macrophage inflammatory protein 1α (MIP-1α), RANTES, and IP-10 were individually cloned into the genome of attenuated RABV strain HEP-Flury. These recombinant RABVs were characterized in vitro for growth properties and expression of chemokines. It was found that all the recombinant viruses grew as well as the parent virus, and each of the viruses expressed the intended chemokine in a dose-dependent manner. When these viruses were evaluated for pathogenicity in the mouse model, it was found that overexpression of MIP-1α further decreased RABV pathogenicity by inducing a transient innate immune response. In contrast, overexpression of RANTES or IP-10 increased RABV pathogenicity by causing neurological diseases, which is due to persistent and high-level expression of chemokines, excessive infiltration and accumulation of inflammatory cells in the central nervous system, and severe enhancement of blood-brain barrier permeability. These studies indicate that overexpression of chemokines, although important in controlling virus infection, may not always be beneficial to the host.
doi:10.1128/JVI.01346-09
PMCID: PMC2772667  PMID: 19740983
20.  B Cell Infection and Activation by Rabies Virus-Based Vaccines 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(16):9097-9110.
Replication-deficient rabies viruses (RABV) are promising rabies postexposure vaccines due to their prompt and potent stimulation of protective virus neutralizing antibody titers, which are produced in mice by both T-dependent and T-independent mechanisms. To promote such early and robust B cell stimulation, we hypothesized that live RABV-based vaccines directly infect B cells, thereby activating a large pool of antigen-presenting cells (APCs) capable of providing early priming and costimulation to CD4+ T cells. In this report, we show that live RABV-based vaccine vectors efficiently infect naive primary murine and human B cells ex vivo. Infection of B cells resulted in the significant upregulation of early markers of B cell activation and antigen presentation, including CD69, major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC-II), and CD40 in murine B cells or HLA-DR and CD40 in human B cells compared to mock-infected cells or cells treated with an inactivated RABV-based vaccine. Furthermore, primary B cells infected with a live RABV expressing ovalbumin were able to prime and stimulate naive CD4+ OT-II T cells to proliferate and to secrete interleukin-2 (IL-2), demonstrating a functional consequence of B cell infection and activation by live RABV-based vaccine vectors. We propose that this direct B cell stimulation by live RABV-based vaccines is a potential mechanism underlying their induction of early protective T cell-dependent B cell responses, and that designing live RABV-based vaccines to infect and activate B cells represents a promising strategy to develop a single-dose postexposure rabies vaccine where the generation of early protective antibody titers is critical.
doi:10.1128/JVI.00800-13
PMCID: PMC3754075  PMID: 23760241
21.  Recombinant Rabies Viruses Expressing GM-CSF or Flagellin Are Effective Vaccines for Both Intramuscular and Oral Immunizations 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63384.
Our previous studies indicated that recombinant rabies viruses (rRABV) expressing chemokines or cytokines (including GM-CSF) could enhance the immunogenicity by recruiting and/or activating dendritic cells (DC). In this study, bacterial flagellin was cloned into the RABV genome and recombinant virus LBNSE-Flagellin was rescued. To compare the immunogenicity of LBNSE-Flagellin with recombinant virus expressing GMCSF (LBNSE-GMCSF), mice were immunized with each of these rRABVs by intramuscular (i.m.) or oral route. The parent virus (LBNSE) without expression of any foreign molecules was included for comparison. The i.m.-immunized mice were bled at three weeks after the immunization for the measurement of virus neutralizing antibody (VNA) and then challenged with 50 LD50 challenge virus standard (CVS-24). Orally immunized mice were boosted after three weeks and then bled and challenged one week after the booster immunization. It was found that both LBNSE-GMCSF and LBNSE-Flagellin recruited/activated more DCs and B cells in the periphery, stimulated higher levels of adaptive immune responses (VNA), and protected more mice against challenge infection than the parent virus LBNSE in both the i.m. and the orally immunized groups. Together, these studies suggest that recombinant RABV expressing GM-CSF or flagellin are more immunogenic than the parent virus in both i.m. and oral immunizations.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063384
PMCID: PMC3658976  PMID: 23700422
22.  Molecular Inferences Suggest Multiple Host Shifts of Rabies Viruses from Bats to Mesocarnivores in Arizona during 2001–2009 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(6):e1002786.
In nature, rabies virus (RABV; genus Lyssavirus, family Rhabdoviridae) represents an assemblage of phylogenetic lineages, associated with specific mammalian host species. Although it is generally accepted that RABV evolved originally in bats and further shifted to carnivores, mechanisms of such host shifts are poorly understood, and examples are rarely present in surveillance data. Outbreaks in carnivores caused by a RABV variant, associated with big brown bats, occurred repeatedly during 2001–2009 in the Flagstaff area of Arizona. After each outbreak, extensive control campaigns were undertaken, with no reports of further rabies cases in carnivores for the next several years. However, questions remained whether all outbreaks were caused by a single introduction and further perpetuation of bat RABV in carnivore populations, or each outbreak was caused by an independent introduction of a bat virus. Another question of concern was related to adaptive changes in the RABV genome associated with host shifts. To address these questions, we sequenced and analyzed 66 complete and 20 nearly complete RABV genomes, including those from the Flagstaff area and other similar outbreaks in carnivores, caused by bat RABVs, and representatives of the major RABV lineages circulating in North America and worldwide. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that each Flagstaff outbreak was caused by an independent introduction of bat RABV into populations of carnivores. Positive selection analysis confirmed the absence of post-shift changes in RABV genes. In contrast, convergent evolution analysis demonstrated several amino acids in the N, P, G and L proteins, which might be significant for pre-adaptation of bat viruses to cause effective infection in carnivores. The substitution S/T242 in the viral glycoprotein is of particular merit, as a similar substitution was suggested for pathogenicity of Nishigahara RABV strain. Roles of the amino acid changes, detected in our study, require additional investigations, using reverse genetics and other approaches.
Author Summary
Host shifts of the rabies virus (RABV) from bats to carnivores are important for our understanding of viral evolution and emergence, and have significant public health implications, particularly for the areas where “terrestrial” rabies has been eliminated. In this study we addressed several rabies outbreaks in carnivores that occurred in the Flagstaff area of Arizona during 2001–2009, and caused by the RABV variant associated with big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus). Based on phylogenetic analysis we demonstrated that each outbreak resulted from a separate introduction of bat RABV into populations of carnivores. No post-shift changes in viral genomes were detected under the positive selection analysis. Trying to answer the question why certain bat RABV variants are capable for host shifts to carnivores and other variants are not, we developed a convergent evolution analysis, and implemented it for multiple RABV lineages circulating worldwide. This analysis identified several amino acids in RABV proteins which may facilitate host shifts from bats to carnivores. Precise roles of these amino acids require additional investigations, using reverse genetics and animal experimentation. In general, our approach and the results obtained can be used for prediction of host shifts and emergence of other zoonotic pathogens.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002786
PMCID: PMC3380930  PMID: 22737076
23.  Oral immunization of mice with recombinant rabies vaccine strain (ERAG3G) induces complete protection 
Purpose
New rabies vaccine bait for both pets and raccoon dogs residing in Korea is needed to eradicate rabies infection among animals. In this study, we constructed a recombinant rabies virus (RABV), the ERAG3G strain, using a reverse genetics system. Then we investigated the efficacy of this strain in mice after oral administration and the safety of this strain in cats after intramuscular administration.
Materials and Methods
The ERAG3G strain was rescued in BHK/T7-9 cells using the full-length genome mutated at the amino acid position 333 of the glycoprotein gene of RABV and helper plasmids. Four-week-old mice underwent one or two oral administrations of the ERAG3G strain and were challenged with the highly virulent RABV strain CVSN2c 14 days after the second administration. Clinical symptoms were observed and body weights were measured every day after the challenge.
Results
All mice showed complete protection against virulent RABV. In addition, cats intramuscularly inoculated with the ERAG3G strain showed high antibody titers ranging from 2.62 to 23.9 IU/mL at 28-day postinoculation.
Conclusion
The oral immunization of the ERAG3G strain plays an important role in conferring complete protection in mice, and intramuscular inoculation of the ERAG3G strain induces the formation of anti-rabies neutralizing antibody in cats.
doi:10.7774/cevr.2015.4.1.107
PMCID: PMC4313102  PMID: 25648184
Recombinant rabies virus; Reverse genetics; Mouse; Animals
24.  Evaluation of Rabies Biologics against Irkut Virus Isolated in China 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2013;51(11):3499-3504.
An Irkut virus (IRKV) was recently isolated from a bat in China. The protective ability of rabies biologics available in the Chinese market and experimental biologics against the rabies virus (RABV) and IRKV were assessed in a hamster model via preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) experiments. The results demonstrated that a single dose of rabies vaccine did not induce adequate protection against IRKV infection. However, routine PrEP with three doses of vaccine induced complete protection against IRKV infection. Higher doses of RABV immunoglobulins and alpha interferon were required during PEP to protect hamsters against IRKV versus RABV infection. Experimental recombinant vaccines containing IRKV glycoproteins induced more-reliable protection against IRKV than against RABV infection. Those findings may be explained by limited cross-neutralization of these viruses (confirmed via in vitro tests) in conjunction with antigenic distances between RABV and IRKV. These results indicate that the development and evaluation of new biologics for PrEP and PEP are required to ensure sufficient protection against IRKV infection in China and other territories where this virus is present.
doi:10.1128/JCM.01565-13
PMCID: PMC3889725  PMID: 23946522
25.  Immune Clearance of Attenuated Rabies Virus Results in Neuronal Survival with Altered Gene Expression 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(10):e1002971.
Rabies virus (RABV) is a highly neurotropic pathogen that typically leads to mortality of infected animals and humans. The precise etiology of rabies neuropathogenesis is unknown, though it is hypothesized to be due either to neuronal death or dysfunction. Analysis of human brains post-mortem reveals surprisingly little tissue damage and neuropathology considering the dramatic clinical symptomology, supporting the neuronal dysfunction model. However, whether or not neurons survive infection and clearance and, provided they do, whether they are functionally restored to their pre-infection phenotype has not been determined in vivo for RABV, or any neurotropic virus. This is due, in part, to the absence of a permanent “mark” on once-infected cells that allow their identification long after viral clearance. Our approach to study the survival and integrity of RABV-infected neurons was to infect Cre reporter mice with recombinant RABV expressing Cre-recombinase (RABV-Cre) to switch neurons constitutively expressing tdTomato (red) to expression of a Cre-inducible EGFP (green), permanently marking neurons that had been infected in vivo. We used fluorescence microscopy and quantitative real-time PCR to measure the survival of neurons after viral clearance; we found that the vast majority of RABV-infected neurons survive both infection and immunological clearance. We were able to isolate these previously infected neurons by flow cytometry and assay their gene expression profiles compared to uninfected cells. We observed transcriptional changes in these “cured” neurons, predictive of decreased neurite growth and dysregulated microtubule dynamics. This suggests that viral clearance, though allowing for survival of neurons, may not restore them to their pre-infection functionality. Our data provide a proof-of-principle foundation to re-evaluate the etiology of human central nervous system diseases of unknown etiology: viruses may trigger permanent neuronal damage that can persist or progress in the absence of sustained viral antigen.
Author Summary
Rabies is an ancient and fatal neurological disease of animals and humans, caused by infection of the central nervous system (CNS) with Rabies virus (RABV). It is estimated that nearly 55,000 human RABV fatalities occur each year, though this number is likely much higher due to unreported exposures or failure of diagnosis. No treatment has been identified to cure disease after onset of symptoms. Neurovirologists still do not know the cause of rabies' dramatic symptoms and fatality, though it is thought to be due to neuronal loss or dysfunction. Here, we use a novel approach to permanently and genetically tag infected cells so that they can be identified after the infection has been cleared. This allowed us to define neuronal survival time following infection, and to assess neuronal function through gene expression analysis. We found that RABV infection does not lead to loss of neurons, but rather induces a permanent change in gene expression that may be related to the ability of RABV to cause permanent CNS disease. Our study provides evidence that viral infection of the brain can initiate long-term changes that may have consequences for nervous system health, even after the virus has been cleared from the CNS.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002971
PMCID: PMC3469654  PMID: 23071441

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