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1.  Efficacy of Recombinant Canine Distemper Virus Expressing Leishmania Antigen against Leishmania Challenge in Dogs 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2015;9(7):e0003914.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) vaccination confers long-term protection against CDV reinfection. To investigate the utility of CDV as a polyvalent vaccine vector for Leishmania, we generated recombinant CDVs, based on an avirulent Yanaka strain, that expressed Leishmania antigens: LACK, TSA, or LmSTI1 (rCDV–LACK, rCDV–TSA, and rCDV–LmSTI1, respectively). Dogs immunized with rCDV-LACK were protected against challenge with lethal doses of virulent CDV, in the same way as the parental Yanaka strain. To evaluate the protective effects of the recombinant CDVs against cutaneous leishmaniasis in dogs, dogs were immunized with one recombinant CDV or a cocktail of three recombinant CDVs, before intradermal challenge (in the ears) with infective-stage promastigotes of Leishmania major. Unvaccinated dogs showed increased nodules with ulcer formation after 3 weeks, whereas dogs immunized with rCDV–LACK showed markedly smaller nodules without ulceration. Although the rCDV–TSA- and rCDV–LmSTI1-immunized dogs showed little protection against L. major, the cocktail of three recombinant CDVs more effectively suppressed the progression of nodule formation than immunization with rCDV–LACK alone. These results indicate that recombinant CDV is suitable for use as a polyvalent live attenuated vaccine for protection against both CDV and L. major infections in dogs.
Author Summary
More than 1 million new cases of leishmaniasis occur throughout the world every year. Leishmaniasis typically presents as one of two clinical forms, either cutaneous or visceral. Dogs harboring Leishmania act as reservoirs, and are closely associated with human infections in South America and southern Europe. Therefore, immunization of dogs with effective vaccines against Leishmania will also effectively prevent Leishmania infection in humans. In this study, we have evaluated the utility of recombinant canine distemper viruses (CDVs) that express Leishmania antigen as effective polyvalent candidate vaccines against CDV and cutaneous Leishmania infections. The results indicated that recombinant CDV completely protected against challenge with a virulent strain of CDV. Furthermore, mixed immunization with three recombinant CDVs that express different antigens that mediate distinct immune responses, significantly reduced the nodule size after Leishmania major challenge. These results strongly suggest that a cocktail of multiple antigens confers more effective immunity throughout the life cycle of Leishmania. We propose that a combination of recombinant CDV-based vaccines expressing different antigens has utility as a polyvalent vaccine for the prevention of leishmaniasis epidemics by inhibiting the transmission of the parasites through dogs.
PMCID: PMC4498809  PMID: 26162094
2.  The hemagglutinin envelope protein of canine distemper virus (CDV) confers cell tropism as illustrated by CDV and measles virus complementation analysis. 
Journal of Virology  1995;69(3):1661-1668.
Measles virus (MV) and canine distemper virus (CDV) are morbilliviruses that cause acute illnesses and several persistent central nervous system infections in humans and in dogs, respectively. Characteristically, the cytopathic effect of these viruses is the formation of syncytia in permissive cells. In this study, a vaccinia virus expression system was used to express MV and CDV hemagglutinin (HA) and fusion (F) envelope proteins. We found that cotransfecting F and HA genes of MV or F and HA genes of CDV resulted in extensive syncytium formation in permissive cells while transfecting either F or HA alone did not. Similar experiments with heterologous pairs of proteins, CDV-F with MV-HA or MV-F with CDV-HA, caused significant cell fusion in both cases. These results indicate that in this expression system, cell fusion requires both F and HA; however, the functions of these proteins are interchangeable between the two types of morbilliviruses. Human-mouse somatic hybrids were used to determine the human chromosome conferring susceptibility to either MV and CDV. Of the 12 hybrids screened, none were sensitive to MV. Two of the hybrids containing human chromosome 19 formed syncytia following CDV infection. In addition, these two hybrids underwent cell fusion when cotransfected with CDV-F and CDV-HA (but not MV-F and MV-HA) glycoproteins by using the vaccinia virus expression system. To discover the viral component responsible for cell specificity, complementation experiments coexpressing CDV-HA with MV-F or CDV-F with MV-HA in the CDV-sensitive hybrids were performed. We found that syncytia were formed only in the presence of CDV-HA. These results support the idea that the HA protein is responsible for cell tropism. Furthermore, while the F protein is necessary for the fusion process, it is interchangeable with the F protein from other morbilliviruses.
PMCID: PMC188765  PMID: 7853502
3.  Measles Vaccination of Nonhuman Primates Provides Partial Protection against Infection with Canine Distemper Virus 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(8):4423-4433.
Measles virus (MV) is being considered for global eradication, which would likely reduce compliance with MV vaccination. As a result, children will grow up without MV-specific immunity, creating a potential niche for closely related animal morbilliviruses such as canine distemper virus (CDV). Natural CDV infection causing clinical signs has never been reported in humans, but recent outbreaks in captive macaques have shown that CDV can cause disease in primates. We studied the virulence and tropism of recombinant CDV expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein in naive and measles-vaccinated cynomolgus macaques. In naive animals CDV caused viremia and fever and predominantly infected CD150+ lymphocytes and dendritic cells. Virus was reisolated from the upper and lower respiratory tracts, but infection of epithelial or neuronal cells was not detectable at the time points examined, and the infections were self-limiting. This demonstrates that CDV readily infects nonhuman primates but suggests that additional mutations are necessary to achieve full virulence in nonnatural hosts. Partial protection against CDV was observed in measles-vaccinated macaques, as demonstrated by accelerated control of virus replication and limited shedding from the upper respiratory tract. While neither CDV infection nor MV vaccination induced detectable cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies, MV-specific neutralizing antibody levels of MV-vaccinated macaques were boosted by CDV challenge infection, suggesting that cross-reactive VN epitopes exist. Rapid increases in white blood cell counts in MV-vaccinated macaques following CDV challenge suggested that cross-reactive cellular immune responses were also present. This study demonstrates that zoonotic morbillivirus infections can be controlled by measles vaccination.
IMPORTANCE Throughout history viral zoonoses have had a substantial impact on human health. Given the drive toward global eradication of measles, it is essential to understand the zoonotic potential of animal morbilliviruses. Morbilliviruses are thought to have evolved from a common ancestral virus that jumped species and adapted to new hosts. Recently, canine distemper virus (CDV), a morbillivirus normally restricted to carnivores, caused disease outbreaks in nonhuman primates. Here, we report that experimental CDV infection of monkeys resulted in fever and leukopenia. The virus replicated to high levels in lymphocytes but did not spread to epithelial cells or the central nervous system. Importantly, like measles virus in macaques, the infections were self-limiting. In measles-vaccinated macaques CDV was cleared more rapidly, resulting in limited virus shedding from the upper respiratory tract. These studies demonstrate that although CDV can readily infect primates, measles immunity is protective, and CDV infection is self-limiting.
PMCID: PMC3993716  PMID: 24501402
4.  Establishment of a Rescue System for Canine Distemper Virus 
Journal of Virology  2000;74(22):10737-10744.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) has been rescued from a full-length cDNA clone. Besides Measles virus (MV) and Rinderpest virus, a third morbillivirus is now available for genetic analysis using reverse genetics. A plasmid p(+)CDV was constructed by sequential cloning using the Onderstepoort vaccine strain large-plaque-forming variant. The presence of a T7 promoter allowed transcription of full-length antigenomic RNA by a T7 RNA polymerase, which was provided by a host range mutant of vaccinia virus (MVA-T7). Plasmids expressing the nucleocapsid protein, the phosphoprotein, and the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, also under control of a T7 promoter, have been generated. Infection of HeLa cells with MVA-T7 and subsequent transfection of p(+)CDV plus the helper plasmids led to syncytium formation and release of infectious recombinant (r) CDV. Comparison of the rescued virus with the parental virus revealed no major differences in the progression of infection or in the shape and size of syncytia. A genetic tag, consisting of two nucleotide changes within the coding region of the L protein, has been identified in the rCDV genome. Expression by rCDV of all the major viral structural proteins has been demonstrated by immunofluorescence.
PMCID: PMC110948  PMID: 11044118
5.  Signal Peptide and Helical Bundle Domains of Virulent Canine Distemper Virus Fusion Protein Restrict Fusogenicity▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;81(20):11413-11425.
Persistence in canine distemper virus (CDV) infection is correlated with very limited cell-cell fusion and lack of cytolysis induced by the neurovirulent A75/17-CDV compared to that of the cytolytic Onderstepoort vaccine strain. We have previously shown that this difference was at least in part due to the amino acid sequence of the fusion (F) protein (P. Plattet, J. P. Rivals, B. Zuber, J. M. Brunner, A. Zurbriggen, and R. Wittek, Virology 337:312-326, 2005). Here, we investigated the molecular mechanisms of the neurovirulent CDV F protein underlying limited membrane fusion activity. By exchanging the signal peptide between both F CDV strains or replacing it with an exogenous signal peptide, we demonstrated that this domain controlled intracellular and consequently cell surface protein expression, thus indirectly modulating fusogenicity. In addition, by serially passaging a poorly fusogenic virus and selecting a syncytium-forming variant, we identified the mutation L372W as being responsible for this change of phenotype. Intriguingly, residue L372 potentially is located in the helical bundle domain of the F1 subunit. We showed that this mutation drastically increased fusion activity of F proteins of both CDV strains in a signal peptide-independent manner. Due to its unique structure even among morbilliviruses, our findings with respect to the signal peptide are likely to be specifically relevant to CDV, whereas the results related to the helical bundle add new insights to our growing understanding of this class of F proteins. We conclude that different mechanisms involving multiple domains of the neurovirulent A75/17-CDV F protein act in concert to limit fusion activity, preventing lysis of infected cells, which ultimately may favor viral persistence.
PMCID: PMC2045578  PMID: 17686846
6.  Genetically distant American Canine distemper virus lineages have recently caused epizootics with somewhat different characteristics in raccoons living around a large suburban zoo in the USA 
Virology Journal  2004;1:2.
Mortality rates have differed during distemper outbreaks among free-ranging raccoons (Procyon lotor) living around a large Chicago-area zoo, and appeared higher in year 2001 than in 1998 and 2000. We hypothesized that a more lethal variant of the local Canine distemper virus (CDV) lineage had emerged in 2001, and sought the genetic basis that led to increased virulence. However, a more complex model surfaced during preliminary analyses of CDV genomic sequences in infected tissues and of virus isolated in vitro from the raccoons.
Phylogenetic analyses of subgenomic CDV fusion (F) -, phosphoprotein (P) -, and complete hemagglutinin (H) – gene sequences indicated that distinct American CDV lineages caused the distemper epizootics. The 1998 outbreak was caused by viruses that are likely from an old CDV lineage that includes CDV Snyder Hill and Lederle, which are CDV strains from the early 1950's. The 2000 and 2001 viruses appear to stem from the lineage of CDV A75/17, which was isolated in the mid 1970's. Only the 2001 viruses formed large syncytia in brain and/or lung tissue, and during primary isolation in-vitro in Vero cells, demonstrating at least one phenotypic property by which they differed from the other viruses.
Two different American CDV lineages caused the raccoon distemper outbreaks. The 1998 viruses are genetically distant to the 2000/2001 viruses. Since CDV does not cause persistent infections, the cycling of different CDV lineages within the same locale suggests multiple reintroductions of the virus to area raccoons. Our findings establish a precedent for determining whether the perceived differences in mortality rates are actual and attributable in part to inherent differences between CDV strains arising from different CDV lineages.
PMCID: PMC524033  PMID: 15507154
7.  SLAM- and Nectin-4-Independent Noncytolytic Spread of Canine Distemper Virus in Astrocytes 
Journal of Virology  2015;89(10):5724-5733.
Measles and canine distemper viruses (MeV and CDV, respectively) first replicate in lymphatic and epithelial tissues by using SLAM and nectin-4 as entry receptors, respectively. The viruses may also invade the brain to establish persistent infections, triggering fatal complications, such as subacute sclerosis pan-encephalitis (SSPE) in MeV infection or chronic, multiple sclerosis-like, multifocal demyelinating lesions in the case of CDV infection. In both diseases, persistence is mediated by viral nucleocapsids that do not require packaging into particles for infectivity but are directly transmitted from cell to cell (neurons in SSPE or astrocytes in distemper encephalitis), presumably by relying on restricted microfusion events. Indeed, although morphological evidence of fusion remained undetectable, viral fusion machineries and, thus, a putative cellular receptor, were shown to contribute to persistent infections. Here, we first showed that nectin-4-dependent cell-cell fusion in Vero cells, triggered by a demyelinating CDV strain, remained extremely limited, thereby supporting a potential role of nectin-4 in mediating persistent infections in astrocytes. However, nectin-4 could not be detected in either primary cultured astrocytes or the white matter of tissue sections. In addition, a bioengineered “nectin-4-blind” recombinant CDV retained full cell-to-cell transmission efficacy in primary astrocytes. Combined with our previous report demonstrating the absence of SLAM expression in astrocytes, these findings are suggestive for the existence of a hitherto unrecognized third CDV receptor expressed by glial cells that contributes to the induction of noncytolytic cell-to-cell viral transmission in astrocytes.
IMPORTANCE While persistent measles virus (MeV) infection induces SSPE in humans, persistent canine distemper virus (CDV) infection causes chronic progressive or relapsing demyelination in carnivores. Common to both central nervous system (CNS) infections is that persistence is based on noncytolytic cell-to-cell spread, which, in the case of CDV, was demonstrated to rely on functional membrane fusion machinery complexes. This inferred a mechanism where nucleocapsids are transmitted through macroscopically invisible microfusion events between infected and target cells. Here, we provide evidence that CDV induces such microfusions in a SLAM- and nectin-4-independent manner, thereby strongly suggesting the existence of a third receptor expressed in glial cells (referred to as GliaR). We propose that GliaR governs intercellular transfer of nucleocapsids and hence contributes to viral persistence in the brain and ensuing demyelinating lesions.
PMCID: PMC4442543  PMID: 25787275
8.  Phylodynamic analysis of the canine distemper virus hemagglutinin gene 
BMC Veterinary Research  2015;11:164.
Canine distemper (CD) is one of the most contagious and lethal viral diseases in dogs. Despite the widespread use of vaccines, the prevalence of the CD virus (CDV) has increased at an alarming rate in recent years. In this phylodynamic study, we investigated the spatiotemporal modes of dispersal, viral demographic trends, and effectiveness of vaccines for CDV. A total of 188 full-length CDV hemagglutinin (H) gene sequences dataset were subjected to recombination analysis, including seven from modified live vaccine (MLV) strains and 12 from Taiwan specimens. After excluding the MLV strains and potential recombinant strains, alignments of 176 of 188 previous CDV strains were further used to analyze phylodynamic characteristics, and evidence of selection, and co-evolution.
The CDV genotype consisted of MLV-associated genotypes such as America-1 and Rockborn-like strains, which were characterized by long terminal branches and no distinct geographical patterns among lineages. In contrast, wild-type isolates clustered into lineages with a spatiotemporal structure and short terminal branches. Co-circulation and extensive diversification were simultaneously observed. The sequence variation signature was shaped by both geographic diversity and host tropism. Codon 506 was identified as a multi-epistatic interacting in the H protein.
The topological signature revealed in this study suggests different epidemic scenarios. For example, a ladder-like backbone is a hallmark of directional selection, and cladogenesis at long terminal branches indicates the emergence of a surviving lineage. The stable effective viral population of CDV indicate the effectiveness of vaccines currently used to control the virus.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12917-015-0491-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4513961  PMID: 26205391
Canine distemper virus; hemagglutinin (H) gene; Spatiotemporal dynamics; Demographic dynamics; Taiwan
9.  Antagonistic Pleiotropy and Fitness Trade-Offs Reveal Specialist and Generalist Traits in Strains of Canine Distemper Virus 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e50955.
Theoretically, homogeneous environments favor the evolution of specialists whereas heterogeneous environments favor generalists. Canine distemper is a multi-host carnivore disease caused by canine distemper virus (CDV). The described cell receptor of CDV is SLAM (CD150). Attachment of CDV hemagglutinin protein (CDV-H) to this receptor facilitates fusion and virus entry in cooperation with the fusion protein (CDV-F). We investigated whether CDV strains co-evolved in the large, homogeneous domestic dog population exhibited specialist traits, and strains adapted to the heterogeneous environment of smaller populations of different carnivores exhibited generalist traits. Comparison of amino acid sequences of the SLAM binding region revealed higher similarity between sequences from Canidae species than to sequences from other carnivore families. Using an in vitro assay, we quantified syncytia formation mediated by CDV-H proteins from dog and non-dog CDV strains in cells expressing dog, lion or cat SLAM. CDV-H proteins from dog strains produced significantly higher values with cells expressing dog SLAM than with cells expressing lion or cat SLAM. CDV-H proteins from strains of non-dog species produced similar values in all three cell types, but lower values in cells expressing dog SLAM than the values obtained for CDV-H proteins from dog strains. By experimentally changing one amino acid (Y549H) in the CDV-H protein of one dog strain we decreased expression of specialist traits and increased expression of generalist traits, thereby confirming its functional importance. A virus titer assay demonstrated that dog strains produced higher titers in cells expressing dog SLAM than cells expressing SLAM of non-dog hosts, which suggested possible fitness benefits of specialization post-cell entry. We provide in vitro evidence for the expression of specialist and generalist traits by CDV strains, and fitness trade-offs across carnivore host environments caused by antagonistic pleiotropy. These findings extend knowledge on CDV molecular epidemiology of particular relevance to wild carnivores.
PMCID: PMC3519774  PMID: 23239996
10.  Canine Distemper Virus Infects Canine Keratinocytes and Immune Cells by Using Overlapping and Distinct Regions Located on One Side of the Attachment Protein▿  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(21):11242-11254.
The morbilliviruses measles virus (MeV) and canine distemper virus (CDV) both rely on two surface glycoproteins, the attachment (H) and fusion proteins, to promote fusion activity for viral cell entry. Growing evidence suggests that morbilliviruses infect multiple cell types by binding to distinct host cell surface receptors. Currently, the only known in vivo receptor used by morbilliviruses is CD150/SLAM, a molecule expressed in certain immune cells. Here we investigated the usage of multiple receptors by the highly virulent and demyelinating CDV strain A75/17. We based our study on the assumption that CDV-H may interact with receptors similar to those for MeV, and we conducted systematic alanine-scanning mutagenesis on CDV-H throughout one side of the β-propeller documented in MeV-H to contain multiple receptor-binding sites. Functional and biochemical assays performed with SLAM-expressing cells and primary canine epithelial keratinocytes identified 11 residues mutation of which selectively abrogated fusion in keratinocytes. Among these, four were identical to amino acids identified in MeV-H as residues contacting a putative receptor expressed in polarized epithelial cells. Strikingly, when mapped on a CDV-H structural model, all residues clustered in or around a recessed groove located on one side of CDV-H. In contrast, reported CDV-H mutants with SLAM-dependent fusion deficiencies were characterized by additional impairments to the promotion of fusion in keratinocytes. Furthermore, upon transfer of residues that selectively impaired fusion induction in keratinocytes into the CDV-H of the vaccine strain, fusion remained largely unaltered. Taken together, our results suggest that a restricted region on one side of CDV-H contains distinct and overlapping sites that control functional interaction with multiple receptors.
PMCID: PMC3194989  PMID: 21849439
11.  Canine distemper virus persistence in demyelinating encephalitis by swift intracellular cell-to-cell spread in astrocytes is controlled by the viral attachment protein 
Acta Neuropathologica  2010;119(5):617-630.
The mechanism of viral persistence, the driving force behind the chronic progression of inflammatory demyelination in canine distemper virus (CDV) infection, is associated with non-cytolytic viral cell-to-cell spread. Here, we studied the molecular mechanisms of viral spread of a recombinant fluorescent protein-expressing virulent CDV in primary canine astrocyte cultures. Time-lapse video microscopy documented that CDV spread was very efficient using cell processes contacting remote target cells. Strikingly, CDV transmission to remote cells could occur in less than 6 h, suggesting that a complete viral cycle with production of extracellular free particles was not essential in enabling CDV to spread in glial cells. Titration experiments and electron microscopy confirmed a very low CDV particle production despite higher titers of membrane-associated viruses. Interestingly, confocal laser microscopy and lentivirus transduction indicated expression and functionality of the viral fusion machinery, consisting of the viral fusion (F) and attachment (H) glycoproteins, at the cell surface. Importantly, using a single-cycle infectious recombinant H-knockout, H-complemented virus, we demonstrated that H, and thus potentially the viral fusion complex, was necessary to enable CDV spread. Furthermore, since we could not detect CD150/SLAM expression in brain cells, the presence of a yet non-identified glial receptor for CDV was suggested. Altogether, our findings indicate that persistence in CDV infection results from intracellular cell-to-cell transmission requiring the CDV-H protein. Viral transfer, happening selectively at the tip of astrocytic processes, may help the virus to cover long distances in the astroglial network, “outrunning” the host’s immune response in demyelinating plaques, thus continuously eliciting new lesions.
PMCID: PMC2849939  PMID: 20119836
Demyelinating encephalitis; CDV persistence; Primary brain cells; Swift cell-to-cell spread; Attachment protein
12.  Vaccinia virus recombinants expressing either the measles virus fusion or hemagglutinin glycoprotein protect dogs against canine distemper virus challenge. 
Journal of Virology  1991;65(8):4263-4274.
cDNA clones of the genes encoding either the hemagglutinin (HA) or fusion (F) proteins of the Edmonston strain of measles virus (MV) were expressed in vaccinia virus recombinants. Immunofluorescence analysis detected both proteins on the plasma membranes of unfixed cells as well as internally in fixed cells. Immunoprecipitation of metabolically radiolabeled infected-cell extracts by using specific sera demonstrated a 76-kDa HA polypeptide and gene products of 60, 44, and 23 kDa which correspond to a MV F precursor and cleavage products F0, F1, and F2, respectively. Neither recombinant induced cell fusion of Vero cells when inoculated individually, but efficient cell fusion was readily observed upon coinfection of cells with both recombinants. Inoculation of dogs with the vaccinia virus-MV F recombinant (VV-MVF) did not give rise to detectable MV-neutralizing antibody. Inoculation of dogs with the vaccinia virus-MV HA recombinant (VV-MVHA) or coinoculation with both recombinants (VV-MVF and VV-MVHA) induced significant MV-neutralizing titers that were increased following a booster inoculation. Inoculation of dogs with the vaccinia virus recombinants or with MV failed to induce canine distemper virus (CDV)-neutralizing antibodies. Upon challenge with a lethal dose of virulent CDV, signs of infection were observed in dogs inoculated with (VV-MVF). No symptoms of disease were observed in dogs that had been vaccinated with VV-MVHA or with VV-MVHA and VV-MVF and then challenged with CDV. All dogs vaccinated with the recombinant viruses as well as those inoculated with MV or a vaccine strain of CDV survived CDV challenge.
PMCID: PMC248864  PMID: 1830113
13.  Canine Distemper Virus: an Emerging Disease in Wild Endangered Amur Tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) 
mBio  2013;4(4):e00410-13.
Fewer than 500 Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) remain in the wild. Due to low numbers and their solitary and reclusive nature, tiger sightings across their range in the Russian Far East and China are rare; sightings of sick tigers are rarer still. Serious neurologic disease observed in several wild tigers since 2001 suggested disease emergence in this endangered species. To investigate this possibility, histology, immunohistochemistry (IHC), in situ hybridization (ISH), and reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) were performed on tissues from 5 affected tigers that died or were destroyed in 2001, 2004, or 2010. Our results reveal canine distemper virus (CDV) infection as the cause of neurologic disease in two tigers and definitively establish infection in a third. Nonsuppurative encephalitis with demyelination, eosinophilic nuclear viral inclusions, and positive immunolabeling for CDV by IHC and ISH were present in the two tigers with available brain tissue. CDV phosphoprotein (P) and hemagglutinin (H) gene products were obtained from brains of these two tigers by RT-PCR, and a short fragment of CDV P gene sequence was detected in lymph node tissue of a third tiger. Phylogenetically, Amur tiger CDV groups with an Arctic-like strain in Baikal seals (Phoca siberica). Our results, which include mapping the location of positive tigers and recognition of a cluster of cases in 2010, coupled with a lack of reported CDV antibodies in Amur tigers prior to 2000 suggest wide geographic distribution of CDV across the tiger range and recent emergence of CDV as a significant infectious disease threat to endangered Amur tigers in the Russian Far East.
Recognition of disease emergence in wildlife is a rare occurrence. Here, for the first time, we identify and characterize a canine distemper virus (CDV), the second most common cause of infectious disease death in domestic dogs and a viral disease of global importance in common and endangered carnivores, as the etiology of neurologic disease and fatal encephalitis in wild, endangered Amur tigers. We establish that in 2010 CDV directly or indirectly killed ~1% of Amur tigers. Location of positive cases over an expansive geographic area suggests that CDV is widely distributed across the tiger range. Interspecies interactions are increasing as human populations grow and expand into wildlife habitats. Identifying animal reservoirs for CDV and identifying the CDV strains that are transmissible to and among wildlife species, including Amur tigers and sympatric critically endangered Amur leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis), is essential for guiding conservation and mitigation efforts.
PMCID: PMC3747579  PMID: 23943758
14.  Phylogenetic Characterization of Canine Distemper Viruses Detected in Naturally Infected Dogs in North America 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2005;43(10):5009-5017.
In 2004, six puppies and one adult dog from a total of four premises were subjected to necropsy evaluation. For five of the seven dogs, disease caused by canine distemper virus (CDV) infection was suspected based on clinical signs. In all of the dogs, a diagnosis of CDV infection was established by the presence of compatible gross and histologic lesions, immunohistochemical labeling for CDV antigen, and detection of CDV RNA by reverse transcription-PCR. To further characterize the CDV strains detected in the four cases, complete gene sequences were determined for the hemagglutinin (H) and fusion (F) protein genes, while partial gene sequencing was performed for the phosphoprotein gene. A total of 4,508 bases were sequenced for the CDV strains detected from each of the four cases. Two cases were found to have identical sequences except for 2 bases in the intergenic region of the F and H genes. Phylogenetic analysis strongly suggested an evolutionary relationship between sequences detected in these two cases and those of phocine distemper virus 2 and two other strains of CDV not previously detected in the continental United States. Clear phylogenetic relationships were not established for viruses detected in the two additional cases; however, one strain showed similarity to CDV strains detected in a panda from China. Importantly, the three CDV strains detected were demonstrated to be genetically distinct from known vaccine strains and strains previously reported in the continental United States.
PMCID: PMC1248462  PMID: 16207955
15.  Recombinant Canine Distemper Virus Strain Snyder Hill Expressing Green or Red Fluorescent Proteins Causes Meningoencephalitis in the Ferret 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(14):7508-7519.
The propensity of canine distemper virus (CDV) to spread to the central nervous system is one of the primary features of distemper. Therefore, we developed a reverse genetics system based on the neurovirulent Snyder Hill (SH) strain of CDV (CDVSH) and show that this virus rapidly circumvents the blood-brain and blood-cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) barriers to spread into the subarachnoid space to induce dramatic viral meningoencephalitis. The use of recombinant CDVSH (rCDVSH) expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) or red fluorescent protein (dTomato) facilitated the sensitive pathological assessment of routes of virus spread in vivo. Infection of ferrets with these viruses led to the full spectrum of clinical signs typically associated with distemper in dogs during a rapid, fatal disease course of approximately 2 weeks. Comparison with the ferret-adapted CDV5804P and the prototypic wild-type CDVR252 showed that hematogenous infection of the choroid plexus is not a significant route of virus spread into the CSF. Instead, viral spread into the subarachnoid space in rCDVSH-infected animals was triggered by infection of vascular endothelial cells and the hematogenous spread of virus-infected leukocytes from meningeal blood vessels into the subarachnoid space. This resulted in widespread infection of cells of the pia and arachnoid mater of the leptomeninges over large areas of the cerebral hemispheres. The ability to sensitively assess the in vivo spread of a neurovirulent strain of CDV provides a novel model system to study the mechanisms of virus spread into the CSF and the pathogenesis of acute viral meningitis.
PMCID: PMC3416283  PMID: 22553334
16.  Canine distemper virus persistence in the nervous system is associated with noncytolytic selective virus spread. 
Journal of Virology  1995;69(3):1678-1686.
Canine distemper virus (CDV), a negative-strand RNA morbillivirus, causes a progressive demyelinating disease in which virus persistence plays an essential role. The antiviral immune response leads to virus clearance in the inflammatory lesions. However, CDV can replicate and persist outside these inflammatory lesions within the brain. How CDV is capable of persisting in the presence of an effective antiviral immune response is poorly understood. In the present investigation, we studied several aspects of virus replication in primary dog brain cell cultures (DBCC), comparing an attenuated CDV strain and a virulent CDV strain. Confluent DBCC were infected with either virulent A75/17-CDV or attenuated Onderstepoort-CDV and monitored for 60 days. Persistence was not associated with defective virus production, because all mRNAs and corresponding proteins were continuously expressed in the noncytolytic infection. Quantitative measurements did not detect a difference between the two types of infection in the rate of virus transcription and protein synthesis at the level of the single cell. However, electron microscopy and virus titration experiments showed that in the persistent CDV infection virus budding is strongly limited compared with that of the attenuated virus. Morphometry and immunocytochemistry showed profound differences in the way the two viruses spread in the culture. The attenuated CDV spread randomly to immediately adjacent cells, whereas persistent CDV spread selectively to more-distant cells by way of cell processes. In conclusion, the present study supports a mechanism of CDV persistence through selective spread by way of cell processes, enabling virulent CDV to invade the central nervous system without the need of releasing much virus into the extracellular space.
PMCID: PMC188767  PMID: 7853504
17.  Detection of Canine Distemper Virus Nucleoprotein RNA by Reverse Transcription-PCR Using Serum, Whole Blood, and Cerebrospinal Fluid from Dogs with Distemper 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1999;37(11):3634-3643.
Reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) was used to detect canine distemper virus (CDV) nucleoprotein (NP) RNA in serum, whole blood, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples from 38 dogs with clinically suspected distemper. Results were correlated to clinical findings, anti-CDV neutralizing antibody titers, postmortem findings, and demonstration of CDV NP antigen by immunohistochemistry. The specificity of the RT-PCR was ensured by amplification of RNA from various laboratory CDV strains, restriction enzyme digestion, and Southern blot hybridization. In 29 of 38 dogs, CDV infection was confirmed by postmortem examination and immunohistochemistry. The animals displayed the catarrhal, systemic, and nervous forms of distemper. Seventeen samples (serum, whole blood, or CSF) from dogs with distemper were tested with three sets of primers targeted to different regions of the NP gene of the CDV Onderstepoort strain. Expected amplicons were observed in 82, 53, and 41% of the 17 samples, depending upon the primer pair used. With the most sensitive primer pair (primer pair I), CDV NP RNA was detected in 25 of 29 (86%) serum samples and 14 of 16 (88%) whole blood and CSF samples from dogs with distemper but not in body fluids from immunohistochemically negative dogs. Nucleotide sequence analysis of five RT-PCR amplicons from isolates from the field revealed few silent point mutations. These isolates exhibited greater homology to the Rockborn (97 to 99%) than to the Onderstepoort (95 to 96%) CDV strain. In summary, although the sensitivity of the RT-PCR for detection of CDV is strongly influenced by the location of the selected primers, this nucleic acid detection system represents a highly specific and sensitive method for the antemortem diagnosis of distemper in dogs, regardless of the form of distemper, humoral immune response, and viral antigen distribution.
PMCID: PMC85712  PMID: 10523566
18.  Identification of Amino Acid Substitutions with Compensational Effects in the Attachment Protein of Canine Distemper Virus 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(14):8057-8064.
The hemagglutinin (H) gene of canine distemper virus (CDV) encodes the receptor-binding protein. This protein, together with the fusion (F) protein, is pivotal for infectivity since it contributes to the fusion of the viral envelope with the host cell membrane. Of the two receptors currently known for CDV (nectin-4 and the signaling lymphocyte activation molecule [SLAM]), SLAM is considered the most relevant for host susceptibility. To investigate how evolution might have impacted the host-CDV interaction, we examined the functional properties of a series of missense single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) naturally accumulating within the H-gene sequences during the transition between two distinct but related strains. The two strains, a wild-type strain and a consensus strain, were part of a single continental outbreak in European wildlife and occurred in distinct geographical areas 2 years apart. The deduced amino acid sequence of the two H genes differed at 5 residues. A panel of mutants carrying all the combinations of the SNPs was obtained by site-directed mutagenesis. The selected mutant, wild type, and consensus H proteins were functionally evaluated according to their surface expression, SLAM binding, fusion protein interaction, and cell fusion efficiencies. The results highlight that the most detrimental functional effects are associated with specific sets of SNPs. Strikingly, an efficient compensational system driven by additional SNPs appears to come into play, virtually neutralizing the negative functional effects. This system seems to contribute to the maintenance of the tightly regulated function of the H-gene-encoded attachment protein.
IMPORTANCE To investigate how evolution might have impacted the host-canine distemper virus (CDV) interaction, we examined the functional properties of naturally occurring single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the hemagglutinin gene of two related but distinct strains of CDV. The hemagglutinin gene encodes the attachment protein, which is pivotal for infection. Our results show that few SNPs have a relevant detrimental impact and they generally appear in specific combinations (molecular signatures). These drastic negative changes are neutralized by compensatory mutations, which contribute to maintenance of an overall constant bioactivity of the attachment protein. This compensational mechanism might reflect the reaction of the CDV machinery to the changes occurring in the virus following antigenic variations critical for virulence.
PMCID: PMC4097785  PMID: 24807725
19.  Canine distemper virus (CDV) infection of ferrets as a model for testing Morbillivirus vaccine strategies: NYVAC- and ALVAC-based CDV recombinants protect against symptomatic infection. 
Journal of Virology  1997;71(2):1506-1513.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) infection of ferrets causes an acute systemic disease involving multiple organ systems, including the respiratory tract, lymphoid system, and central nervous system (CNS). We have tested candidate CDV vaccines incorporating the fusion (F) and hemagglutinin (HA) proteins in the highly attenuated NYVAC strain of vaccinia virus and in the ALVAC strain of canarypox virus, which does not productively replicate in mammalian hosts. Juvenile ferrets were vaccinated twice with these constructs, or with an attenuated live-virus vaccine, while controls received saline or the NYVAC and ALVAC vectors expressing rabies virus glycoprotein. Control animals did not develop neutralizing antibody and succumbed to distemper after developing fever, weight loss, leukocytopenia, decreased activity, conjunctivitis, an erythematous rash typical of distemper, CNS signs, and viremia in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (as measured by reverse transcription-PCR). All three CDV vaccines elicited neutralizing titers of at least 1:96. All vaccinated ferrets survived, and none developed viremia. Both recombinant vaccines also protected against the development of symptomatic distemper. However, ferrets receiving the live-virus vaccine lost weight, became lymphocytopenic, and developed the erythematous rash typical of CDV. These data show that ferrets are an excellent model for evaluating the ability of CDV vaccines to protect against symptomatic infection. Because the pathogenesis and clinical course of CDV infection of ferrets is quite similar to that of other Morbillivirus infections, including measles, this model will be useful in testing new candidate Morbillivirus vaccines.
PMCID: PMC191207  PMID: 8995676
20.  Functional and structural interactions between measles virus hemagglutinin and CD46. 
Journal of Virology  1995;69(6):3341-3349.
We analyzed the roles of the individual measles virus (MV) surface glycoproteins in mediating functional and structural interactions with human CD46, the primary MV receptor. On one cell population, recombinant vaccinia virus vectors were used to produce the MV hemagglutinin (H) and fusion (F) glycoproteins. As fusion partner cells, various cell types were examined, without or with human CD46 (endogenous or recombinant vaccinia virus encoded). Fusion between the two cell populations was monitored by a quantitative reporter gene activation assay and by syncytium formation. MV glycoproteins promoted fusion with primate cells but not with nonprimate cells; recombinant CD46 rendered nonprimate cells competent for MV glycoprotein-mediated fusion. Markedly different fusion specificity was observed for another morbillivirus, canine distemper virus (CDV): recombinant CDV glycoproteins promoted fusion with primate and nonprimate cells independently of CD46. Fusion by the recombinant MV and CDV glycoproteins required coexpression of H plus F in either homologous or heterologous combinations. To assess the role of H versus F in determining the CD46 dependence of MV fusion, we examined the fusion specificities of cells producing heterologous glycoprotein combinations. The specificity of HMV plus FCDV paralleled that observed for the homologous MV glycoproteins: fusion occurred with primate cells but not with nonprimate cells unless they produced recombinant CD46. By contrast, the specificity of HCDV plus FMV paralleled that for the homologous CDV glycoproteins: fusion occurred with either primate or nonprimate cells with no dependence on CD46. Thus, for both MV and CDV, fusion specificity was determined by H. In particular, the results demonstrate a functional interaction between HMV and CD46. Flow cytometry and antibody coprecipitation studies provided a structural correlate to this functional interaction: CD46 formed a molecular complex with HMV but not with FMV or with either CDV glycoprotein. These results highlight the critical role of the H glycoprotein in determining MV specificity for CD46-positive cells.
PMCID: PMC189046  PMID: 7745681
21.  Genotypes of Canine Distemper Virus Determined by Analysis of the Hemagglutinin Genes of Recent Isolates from Dogs in Japan 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1999;37(9):2936-2942.
Canine distemper of domestic dogs is caused by canine distemper virus (CDV), a member of the morbilliviruses. It has been a highly contagious disease of great veterinary importance for centuries, but for the last several decades it has been controlled satisfactorily by modified live vaccines. In the 1990s, however, it was described that CDV strains genetically different from vaccine strains may have caused the disease in vaccinated dogs. The highest antigenic variation is found in the H protein. Therefore, in the present study, hemagglutinin (H) genes obtained from current vaccines and field isolates and amplified directly from clinical specimens were genetically analyzed by restriction fragment length polymorphism assay and sequencing. Phylogenetic analysis of the H-gene amino acid sequences revealed that at least two CDV genotypes are circulating among dogs in Japan; one is a genotype to which almost all Japanese CDV isolates belong and the other has not been previously described. Both are separate and independent from the other lineages or genotypes of vaccine strains, as well as European and U.S. CDV isolates. The results suggest that CDV has also evolved in Japan, and further studies will be needed for an evaluation and possible improvement of the efficacies of current CDV vaccines.
PMCID: PMC85418  PMID: 10449479
22.  Canine Distemper Virus DNA Vaccination Induces Humoral and Cellular Immunity and Protects against a Lethal Intracerebral Challenge 
Journal of Virology  1998;72(11):8472-8476.
We have studied the immune responses to the two glycoproteins of the Morbillivirus canine distemper virus (CDV) after DNA vaccination of BALB/c mice. The plasmids coding for both CDV hemagglutinin (H) and fusion protein (F) induce high levels of antibodies which persist for more than 6 months. Intramuscular inoculation of the CDV DNA induces a predominantly immunoglobulin G2a (IgG2a) response (Th1 response), whereas gene gun immunization with CDV H evokes exclusively an IgG1 response (Th2 response). In contrast, the CDV F gene elicited a mixed, IgG1 and IgG2a response. Mice vaccinated (by gene gun) with either the CDV H or F DNA showed a class I-restricted cytotoxic lymphocyte response. Immunized mice challenged intracerebrally with a lethal dose of a neurovirulent strain of CDV were protected. However, approximately 30% of the mice vaccinated with the CDV F DNA became obese in the first 2 months following the challenge. This was not correlated with the serum antibody levels.
PMCID: PMC110255  PMID: 9765383
23.  Multiplex Amplification Refractory Mutation System Polymerase Chain Reaction (ARMS-PCR) for diagnosis of natural infection with canine distemper virus 
Virology Journal  2010;7:122.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) is present worldwide and produces a lethal systemic infection of wild and domestic Canidae. Pre-existing antibodies acquired from vaccination or previous CDV infection might interfere the interpretation of a serologic diagnosis method. In addition, due to the high similarity of nucleic acid sequences between wild-type CDV and the new vaccine strain, current PCR derived methods cannot be applied for the definite confirmation of CD infection. Hence, it is worthy of developing a simple and rapid nucleotide-based assay for differentiation of wild-type CDV which is a cause of disease from attenuated CDVs after vaccination. High frequency variations have been found in the region spanning from the 3'-untranslated region (UTR) of the matrix (M) gene to the fusion (F) gene (designated M-F UTR) in a few CDV strains. To establish a differential diagnosis assay, an amplification refractory mutation analysis was established based on the highly variable region on M-F UTR and F regions.
Sequences of frequent polymorphisms were found scattered throughout the M-F UTR region; the identity of nucleic acid between local strains and vaccine strains ranged from 82.5% to 93.8%. A track of AAA residue located 35 nucleotides downstream from F gene start codon highly conserved in three vaccine strains were replaced with TGC in the local strains; that severed as target sequences for deign of discrimination primers. The method established in the present study successfully differentiated seven Taiwanese CDV field isolates, all belonging to the Asia-1 lineage, from vaccine strains.
The method described herein would be useful for several clinical applications, such as confirmation of nature CDV infection, evaluation of vaccination status and verification of the circulating viral genotypes.
PMCID: PMC2907576  PMID: 20534175
24.  Antibodies to CD9, a Tetraspan Transmembrane Protein, Inhibit Canine Distemper Virus-Induced Cell-Cell Fusion but Not Virus-Cell Fusion 
Journal of Virology  2000;74(16):7554-7561.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) causes a life-threatening disease in several carnivores including domestic dogs. Recently, we identified a molecule, CD9, a member of the tetraspan transmembrane protein family, which facilitates, and antibodies to which inhibit, the infection of tissue culture cells with CDV (strain Onderstepoort). Here we describe that an anti-CD9 monoclonal antibody (MAb K41) did not interfere with binding of CDV to cells and uptake of virus. In addition, in single-step growth experiments, MAb K41 did not induce differences in the levels of viral mRNA and proteins. However, the virus release of syncytium-forming strains of CDV, the virus-induced cell-cell fusion in lytically infected cultures, and the cell-cell fusion of uninfected with persistently CDV-infected HeLa cells were strongly inhibited by MAb K41. These data indicate that anti-CD9 antibodies selectively block virus-induced cell-cell fusion, whereas virus-cell fusion is not affected.
PMCID: PMC112276  PMID: 10906209
25.  Efficient Isolation of Wild Strains of Canine Distemper Virus in Vero Cells Expressing Canine SLAM (CD150) and Their Adaptability to Marmoset B95a Cells 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(18):9943-9950.
We have previously shown that canine signaling lymphocyte activation molecule (SLAM; also known as CD150) acts as a cellular receptor for canine distemper virus (CDV). In this study, we established Vero cells stably expressing canine SLAM (Vero.DogSLAMtag cells). Viruses were isolated in Vero.DogSLAMtag cells one day after inoculation with spleen samples from five out of seven dogs with distemper. By contrast, virus isolation with reportedly sensitive marmoset B95a cells was only successful from three diseased animals at 7 to 10 days after inoculation, and no virus was recovered from any dogs when Vero cells were used for isolation. The CDV strain isolated in Vero.DogSLAMtag cells did not cause cytopathic effects in B95a and human SLAM-expressing Vero cells, whereas the strain isolated in B95a cells from the same dog did so in canine or human SLAM-expressing Vero cells as well as B95a cells. There were two amino acid differences in the hemagglutinin sequence between these strains. Cell fusion analysis after expression of envelope proteins and vesicular stomatitis virus pseudotype assay showed that their hemagglutinins were responsible for the difference in cell tropism between them. Site-directed mutagenesis indicated that glutamic acid to lysine substitution at position 530 of the hemagglutinin was required for the adaptation to the usage of marmoset SLAM. Our results indicate that Vero cells stably expressing canine SLAM are highly sensitive to CDV in clinical specimens and that only a single amino acid substitution in the hemagglutinin can allow the virus to adapt to marmoset SLAM.
PMCID: PMC224612  PMID: 12941904

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