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1.  Rabies Virus Is Recognized by the NLRP3 Inflammasome and Activates Interleukin-1β Release in Murine Dendritic Cells 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(10):5848-5857.
Inflammasome activation is important for the development of an effective host defense against many pathogens, including RNA viruses. However, the mechanism by which the inflammasome recognizes RNA viruses and its role in rabies virus (RABV) pathogenicity and immunogenicity remain poorly defined. To determine the function of the inflammasome in response to RABV infection, we infected murine bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (BMDCs) with RABV. Our results indicate that the infection of BMDCs with RABV induces both the production of pro-interleukin-1β (pro-IL-1β) and its processing, resulting in the secretion of active IL-1β through activation of the NLRP3-, ASC-, and caspase-1-dependent inflammasome. As previously shown for the induction of type I interferon by RABV, the induction of pro-IL-1β also depends upon IPS-1. We demonstrate that both the production of pro-IL-1β and activation of the inflammasome require viral replication. We also demonstrate that increased viral replication in BMDCs derived from IFNAR-deficient mice resulted in significantly more IL-1β release. Additionally, IL-1 receptor-deficient mice show an increase in RABV pathogenicity. Taken together, these results indicate an important role of the inflammasome in innate immune recognition of RABV.
PMCID: PMC3648142  PMID: 23487464
2.  Dendritic cells infected by recombinant rabies virus vaccine vector expressing HIV-1 Gag are immunogenic even in presence of vector-specific immunity 
Vaccine  2010;29(1):130-140.
Dendritic cells (DC) are the most potent antigen presenting cells whose ability to interact with T cells, B cells and NK cells has led to their extensive use in vaccine design. Here, we designed a DC-based HIV-1 vaccine using an attenuated rabies virus vector expressing HIV-1 Gag (RIDC-Gag). To test this, BALB/c mice were immunized with RIDC-Gag, and the primary, secondary as well as humoral immune responses were monitored. Our results indicate that RIDC-Gag stimulated HIV-1 Gag-specific immune responses in mice. When challenged with vaccinia virus (VV) expressing HIV-1 Gag, they elicited a potent Gag-specific recall response characterized by CD8+ T cells expressing multiple cytokines that were capable of specifically lysing Gag-pulsed target cells. Moreover, RIDC-Gag also enhanced CD8+ T cell responses via a homologous prime-boost regimen. These results show that a DC-based vaccine using live RV is immunogenic and a potential candidate for a therapeutic HIV-1 vaccine.
PMCID: PMC2997164  PMID: 20728525
3.  Rabies virus-based vaccines elicit neutralizing antibodies, poly-functional CD8+ T cell, and protect rhesus macaques from AIDS-like disease after SIVmac251 challenge 
Vaccine  2009;28(2):299-308.
Highly attenuated rabies virus (RV) vaccine vectors were evaluated for their ability to protect against highly pathogenic SIVmac251 challenge. Mamu-A*01 negative rhesus macaques were immunized in groups of four with either: RV expressing SIVmac239-GagPol, a combination of RV expressing SIVmac239-Env and RV expressing SIVmac239-GagPol, or with empty RV vectors. Eight weeks later animals received a booster immunization with a heterologous RV expressing the same antigens. At twelve weeks post-boost, all animals were challenged intravenously with 100 TCID50 of pathogenic SIVmac251-CX. Immunized macaques in both vaccine groups had 1.3–1.6-log fold decrease in viral set point compared to control animals. The GagPol/Env immunized animals also had a significantly lower peak viral load. When compared to control animals following challenge, vaccinated macaques had a more rapid induction of SIVmac251 neutralizing antibodies and of CD8+ T cell responses to various SIV epitopes. Moreover, vaccinated macaques better-maintained peripheral memory CD4+ T cells and were able to mount a poly-functional CD8+ T cell response in the mucosa. These findings indicate promise for RV-based vectors and have important implications for the development of an efficacious HIV vaccine.
PMCID: PMC2826816  PMID: 19879223
rabies virus; HIV-1; vaccine; SIVmac251; rhabdovirus
4.  Small-Molecule Probes Targeting the Viral PPxY-Host Nedd4 Interface Block Egress of a Broad Range of RNA Viruses 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(13):7294-7306.
Budding of filoviruses, arenaviruses, and rhabdoviruses is facilitated by subversion of host proteins, such as Nedd4 E3 ubiquitin ligase, by viral PPxY late (L) budding domains expressed within the matrix proteins of these RNA viruses. As L domains are important for budding and are highly conserved in a wide array of RNA viruses, they represent potential broad-spectrum targets for the development of antiviral drugs. To identify potential competitive blockers, we used the known Nedd4 WW domain-PPxY interaction interface as the basis of an in silico screen. Using PPxY-dependent budding of Marburg (MARV) VP40 virus-like particles (VLPs) as our model system, we identified small-molecule hit 1 that inhibited Nedd4-PPxY interaction and PPxY-dependent budding. This lead candidate was subsequently improved with additional structure-activity relationship (SAR) analog testing which enhanced antibudding activity into the nanomolar range. Current lead compounds 4 and 5 exhibit on-target effects by specifically blocking the MARV VP40 PPxY-host Nedd4 interaction and subsequent PPxY-dependent egress of MARV VP40 VLPs. In addition, lead compounds 4 and 5 exhibited antibudding activity against Ebola and Lassa fever VLPs, as well as vesicular stomatitis and rabies viruses (VSV and RABV, respectively). These data provide target validation and suggest that inhibition of the PPxY-Nedd4 interaction can serve as the basis for the development of a novel class of broad-spectrum, host-oriented antivirals targeting viruses that depend on a functional PPxY L domain for efficient egress.
IMPORTANCE There is an urgent and unmet need for the development of safe and effective therapeutics against biodefense and high-priority pathogens, including filoviruses (Ebola and Marburg) and arenaviruses (e.g., Lassa and Junin) which cause severe hemorrhagic fever syndromes with high mortality rates. We along with others have established that efficient budding of filoviruses, arenaviruses, and other viruses is critically dependent on the subversion of host proteins. As disruption of virus budding would prevent virus dissemination, identification of small-molecule compounds that block these critical viral-host interactions should effectively block disease progression and transmission. Our findings provide validation for targeting these virus-host interactions as we have identified lead inhibitors with broad-spectrum antiviral activity. In addition, such inhibitors might prove useful for newly emerging RNA viruses for which no therapeutics would be available.
PMCID: PMC4054416  PMID: 24741084
5.  Interferon-β expressed by a rabies virus-based HIV-1 vaccine vector serves as a molecular adjuvant and decreases pathogenicity 
Virology  2008;382(2):226-238.
Type I interferon is important in anti-viral responses and in coordinating the innate immune response. Here we explore the use of interferon-β to adjuvant the response to a rabies virus (RV) vaccine vector expressing both HIV-1 Gag and IFN-β. Viral load and immune responses of immunized mice were analyzed over time. Our results indicate that the RV expressing IFN-β (IFN(+)) is highly attenuated when compared to control RV and demonstrate that the expression of IFN-β reduces viral replication approximately 100-fold. Despite the decrease in replication, those mice immunized with the IFN(+) RV had a significantly greater number of activated CD8+ T cells. The increased activation of CD8+ T cells was dependent on IFN-β signaling, as we saw no difference following infection of IFNAR−/− mice. Although mice immunized with IFN(+) have a greater primary immune response than controls, immunized mice that were challenged with vaccinia expressing Gag had no significant difference in the number or functionality of CD8+ T cells. The increased CD8+ T cell activation in the presence of IFN-β, even with greatly reduced viral replication, indicates the beneficial effect of IFN-β for the host.
PMCID: PMC2645003  PMID: 18945463
Vaccine; Adjuvant; Interferon-beta; Rabies
6.  A single immunization with a rhabdovirus-based vector expressing severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) S protein results in the production of high levels of SARS-CoV-neutralizing antibodies 
The Journal of general virology  2005;86(Pt 5):1435-1440.
Foreign viral proteins expressed by rabies virus (RV) have been shown to induce potent humoral and cellular immune responses in immunized animals. In addition, highly attenuated and, therefore, very safe RV-based vectors have been constructed. Here, an RV-based vaccine vehicle was utilized as a novel vaccine against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV). For this approach, the SARS-CoV nucleocapsid protein (N) or envelope spike protein (S) genes were cloned between the RV glycoprotein G and polymerase L genes. Recombinant vectors expressing SARS-CoV N or S protein were recovered and their immunogenicity was studied in mice. A single inoculation with the RV-based vaccine expressing SARS-CoV S protein induced a strong SARS-CoV-neutralizing antibody response. The ability of the RV-SARS-CoV S vector to confer immunity after a single inoculation makes this live vaccine a promising candidate for eradication of SARS-CoV in animal reservoirs, thereby reducing the risk of transmitting the infection to humans.
PMCID: PMC1361274  PMID: 15831955
7.  A replication-deficient rabies virus vaccine expressing Ebola virus glycoprotein is highly attenuated for neurovirulence 
Virology  2012;434(1):18-26.
We are developing inactivated and live-attenuated rabies virus (RABV) vaccines expressing Ebola virus (EBOV) glycoprotein for use in humans and endangered wildlife, respectively. Here, we further characterize the pathogenesis of the live-attenuated RABV/EBOV vaccine candidates in mice in an effort to define their growth properties and potential for safety. RABV vaccines expressing GP (RV-GP) or a replication-deficient derivative with a deletion of the RABV G gene (RVΔG-GP) are both avirulent after intracerebral inoculation of adult mice. Furthermore, RVΔG-GP is completely avirulent upon intracerebral inoculation of suckling mice unlike parental RABV vaccine or RV-GP. Analysis of RVΔG-GP in the brain by quantitative PCR, determination of virus titer, and immunohistochemistry indicated greatly restricted virus replication. In summary, our findings indicate that RV-GP retains the attenuation phenotype of the live-attenuated RABV vaccine, and RVΔG-GP would appear to be an even safer alternative for use in wildlife or consideration for human use.
PMCID: PMC3484205  PMID: 22889613
Ebola virus; rabies virus; vaccine; neurovirulence; mice
8.  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.
PMCID: PMC3434297  PMID: 22884661
Ebola virus; rabies virus; vaccine; T cell; multivalent; platform
10.  Comparison of Heterologous Prime-Boost Strategies against Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Gag Using Negative Stranded RNA Viruses 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67123.
This study analyzed a heterologous prime-boost vaccine approach against HIV-1 using three different antigenically unrelated negative-stranded viruses (NSV) expressing HIV-1 Gag as vaccine vectors: rabies virus (RABV), vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) and Newcastle disease virus (NDV). We hypothesized that this approach would result in more robust cellular immune responses than those achieved with the use of any of the vaccines alone in a homologous prime-boost regimen. To this end, we primed BALB/c mice with each of the NSV-based vectors. Primed mice were rested for thirty-five days after which we administered a second immunization with the same or heterologous NSV-Gag viruses. The magnitude and quality of the Gag-specific CD8+ T cells in response to these vectors post boost were measured. In addition, we performed challenge experiments using vaccinia virus expressing HIV-1 Gag (VV-Gag) thirty-three days after the boost inoculation. Our results showed that the choice of the vaccine used for priming was important for the detected Gag-specific CD8+ T cell recall responses post boost and that NDV-Gag appeared to result in a more robust recall of CD8+ T cell responses independent of the prime vaccine used. However, the different prime-boost strategies were not distinct for the parameters studied in the challenge experiments using VV-Gag but did indicate some benefits compared to single immunizations. Taken together, our data show that NSV vectors can individually stimulate HIV-Gag specific CD8+ T cells that are effectively recalled by other NSV vectors in a heterologous prime-boost approach. These results provide evidence that RABV, VSV and NDV can be used in combination to develop vaccines needing prime-boost regimens to stimulate effective immune responses.
PMCID: PMC3694142  PMID: 23840600
11.  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.
PMCID: PMC3667758  PMID: 23737747
12.  Interspecies protein substitution to investigate the role of the lyssavirus glycoprotein 
The Journal of General Virology  2013;94(Pt 2):284-292.
European bat lyssaviruses type 1 (EBLV-1) and type 2 (EBLV-2) circulate within bat populations throughout Europe and are capable of causing disease indistinguishable from that caused by classical rabies virus (RABV). However, the determinants of viral fitness and pathogenicity are poorly understood. Full-length genome clones based on the highly attenuated, non-neuroinvasive, RABV vaccine strain (SAD-B19) were constructed with the glycoprotein (G) of either SAD-B19 (SN), of EBLV-1 (SN-1) or EBLV-2 (SN-2). In vitro characterization of SN-1 and SN-2 in comparison to wild-type EBLVs demonstrated that the substitution of G affected the final virus titre and antigenicity. In vivo, following peripheral infection with a high viral dose (104 f.f.u.), animals infected with SN-1 had reduced survivorship relative to infection with SN, resulting in survivorship similar to animals infected with EBLV-1. The histopathological changes and antigen distribution observed for SN-1 were more representative of those observed with SN than with EBLV-1. EBLV-2 was unable to achieve a titre equivalent to that of the other viruses. Therefore, a reduced-dose experiment (103 f.f.u.) was undertaken in vivo to compare EBLV-2 and SN-2, which resulted in 100 % survivorship for all recombinant viruses (SN, SN-1 and SN-2) while clinical disease developed in mice infected with the EBLVs. These data indicate that interspecies replacement of G has an effect on virus titre in vitro, probably as a result of suboptimal G–matrix protein interactions, and influences the survival outcome following a peripheral challenge with a high virus titre in mice.
PMCID: PMC3709617  PMID: 23100360
13.  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.
PMCID: PMC3469654  PMID: 23071441
14.  Replication-Deficient Rabies Virus–Based Vaccines Are Safe and Immunogenic in Mice and Nonhuman Primates 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2009;200(8):1251-1260.
Although current postexposure prophylaxis rabies virus (RV) vaccines are effective, ~40,000–70,000 rabies-related deaths are reported annually worldwide. The development of effective formulations requiring only 1–2 applications would significantly reduce mortality. We assessed in mice and nonhuman primates the efficacy of replication-deficient RV vaccine vectors that lack either the matrix (M) or phosphoprotein (P) gene. A single dose of M gene–deficient RV induced a more rapid and efficient anti-RV response than did P gene–deficient RV immunization. Furthermore, the M gene–deleted RV vaccine induced 4-fold higher virus-neutralizing antibody (VNA) levels in rhesus macaques than did a commercial vaccine within 10 days after inoculation, and at 180 days after immunization rhesus macaques remained healthy and had higher-avidity antibodies, higher VNA titers, and a more potent antibody response typical of a type 1 T helper response than did animals immunized with a commercial vaccine. The data presented in this article suggest that the M gene–deleted RV vaccine is safe and effective and holds the potential of replacing current pre- and postexposure RV vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3388800  PMID: 19764884
15.  Immunization of mice with the non-toxic HC50 domain of botulinum neurotoxin presented by rabies virus particles induces a strong immune response affording protection against high-dose botulinum neurotoxin challenge 
Vaccine  2011;29(28):4638-4645.
We previously showed that rabies virus (RABV) virions are excellent vehicles for antigen presentation. Here, a reverse genetic approach was applied to generate recombinant RABV that express a chimeric protein composed of the heavy chain carboxyterminal half (HC50) of botulinum neurotoxin type A (BoNT/A) and RABV glycoprotein (G). To promote surface expression and incorporation of HC50/A into RABV virions, the RABV glycoprotein (G) ER translocation sequence, various fragments of RABV ectodomain (ED) and cytoplasmic domain were fused to HC50/A. The HC50/A chimeric proteins were expressed on the surface of cells infected with all of the recombinant RABVs, however, the highest level of surface expression was detected by utilizing 30 amino acids of the RABV G ED (HV50/A-E30). Our results also indicated that this chimeric protein was effectively incorporated into RABV virions. Immunization of mice with inactivated RABV-HC50/A-E30 virions induced a robust anti-HC50/A IgG antibody response that efficiently neutralized circulating BoNT/A in vivo, and protected mice against 1000 fold the lethal dose of BoNT/A.
PMCID: PMC3114282  PMID: 21549784
16.  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.
PMCID: PMC3187516  PMID: 21849459
17.  Rabies Virus (RV) Glycoprotein Expression Levels Are Not Critical for Pathogenicity of RV▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;85(2):697-704.
Previous comparisons of different rabies virus (RV) strains suggested an inverse relationship between pathogenicity and the amount of glycoprotein produced in infected cells. In order to provide more insight into this relationship, we pursued an experimental approach that allowed us to alter the glycoprotein expression level without altering the glycoprotein sequence, thereby eliminating the contribution of amino acid changes to differences in viral virulence. To this end, we constructed an infectious clone of the highly pathogenic rabies virus strain CVS-N2c and replaced its cognate glycoprotein gene with synthetic versions in which silent mutations were introduced to replace wild-type codons with the most or least frequently used synonymous codons. A recombinant N2c variant containing the fully codon-optimized G gene and three variants carrying a partially codon-deoptimized G gene were recovered on mouse neuroblastoma cells and shown to express 2- to 3-fold more and less glycoprotein, respectively, than wild-type N2c. Pathogenicity studies in mice revealed the WT-N2c virus to be the most pathogenic strain. Variants containing partially codon-deoptimized glycoprotein genes or the codon-optimized gene were less pathogenic than WT-N2c but still caused significant mortality. We conclude that the expression level of the glycoprotein gene does have an impact on pathogenicity but is not a dominant factor that determines pathogenicity. Thus, strategies such as changes in codon usage that aim solely at altering the expression level of the glycoprotein gene do not suffice to render a pathogenic rabies virus apathogenic and are not a viable and safe approach for attenuation of a pathogenic strain.
PMCID: PMC3020019  PMID: 21068252
Journal of immunological methods  2009;353(1-2):78-86.
Using Strepavidin as a scaffold, we have assembled a composite immunotoxin that consists of recombinant Pseudomonas exotoxin A subunit (PE38) and recombinant 25-D1.16 Fab fragment which recognizes the SIINFEKL (pOV8) peptide from ovalbumin in association with H-2Kb MHC class I protein. The composite immunotoxin exercises cytotoxicity against H-2Kb+ cells sensitized with pOV8 peptide but not with irrelevant peptide. Specific binding of the immunotoxin to H-2Kb+ cells infected with recombinant rabies virus (RV) expressing pOV8 epitope (RV-pOV8) resulted in the suppression of the production of virus particles by the infected cells. This strategy allows readily produce different immunotoxins with desired specificity by combining various targeting and toxin molecules. The results provide a proof of concept that composite immunotoxins can be utilized as novel immunotherapeutics to stop virus spread in the acute phase of the infection allowing winning time for the development of protective immune response.
PMCID: PMC2823984  PMID: 19932697
TCR-like antibody; peptide-MHC ligands; Pseudomonas exotoxin; composite immunotoxin; rabies virus
19.  Induction of Neutralizing Antibody Responses to Anthrax Protective Antigen by Using Influenza Virus Vectors: Implications for Disparate Immune System Priming Pathways▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;84(16):8300-8307.
Viral vectors based on influenza virus, rabies virus (RV), and vaccinia virus (VV) were used to express large polypeptide segments derived from the Bacillus anthracis protective antigen (PA). For the infectious influenza virus vector and recombinant VV constructs, the receptor binding domain (RBD or domain 4) or the lethal and edema factor binding domain (LEF or domain 1′) were engineered into functional chimeric hemagglutinin (HA) glycoproteins. In the case of the RV vector, the viral glycoprotein (G) was used as a carrier for RBD in an inactivated form of the vector. These constructs were examined by using multiple homologous and heterologous prime/boost immunization regimens in order to optimize the induction of α-PA antibody responses. Several immunization combinations were shown to induce high titers of antibody recognizing the anthrax RBD and LEF domains, as well as the full-length PA protein in mice. The heterologous prime/boost immunization regimens that involved an initial intranasal administration of a live influenza virus vector, followed by an intramuscular boost with either the killed RV vector or the VV vector, were particularly effective, inducing antigen-specific antibodies at levels severalfold higher than homologous or alternative heterologous protocols. Furthermore, sera from several groups of the immunized mice demonstrated neutralization activity in an in vitro anthrax toxin neutralization assay. In some cases, such toxin-neutralizing activity was notably high, indicating that the mechanisms by which immunity is primed by live influenza virus vectors may have beneficial properties.
PMCID: PMC2916528  PMID: 20504926
20.  Characterization of a Single-Cycle Rabies Virus-Based Vaccine Vector ▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;84(6):2820-2831.
Recombinant rabies virus (RV)-based vectors have demonstrated their efficacy in generating long-term, antigen-specific immune responses in murine and monkey models. However, replication-competent viral vectors pose significant safety concerns due to vector pathogenicity. RV pathogenicity is largely attributed to its glycoprotein (RV-G), which facilitates the attachment and entry of RV into host cells. We have developed a live, single-cycle RV by deletion of the G gene from an RV vaccine vector expressing HIV-1 Gag (SPBN-ΔG-Gag). Passage of SPBN-ΔG-Gag on cells stably expressing RV-G allowed efficient propagation of the G-deleted RV. The in vivo immunogenicity data comparing single-cycle RV to a replication-competent control (BNSP-Gag) showed lower RV-specific antibodies; however, the overall isotype profiles (IgG2a/IgG1) were similar for the two vaccine vectors. Despite this difference, mice immunized with SPBN-ΔG-Gag and BNSP-Gag mounted similar levels of Gag-specific CD8+ T-cell responses as measured by major histocompatibility complex class I Gag-tetramer staining, gamma interferon-enzyme-linked immunospot assay, and cytotoxic T-cell assay. Moreover, these cellular responses were maintained equally at immunization titers as low as 103 focus-forming units for both RV vaccine vectors. CD8+ T-cell responses were significantly enhanced by a boost with a single-cycle RV complemented with a heterologous vesicular stomatitis virus glycoprotein. These findings demonstrate that single-cycle RV is an effective alternative to replication-competent RV vectors for future development of vaccines for HIV-1 and other infectious diseases.
PMCID: PMC2826042  PMID: 20053743
21.  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.
PMCID: PMC2908622  PMID: 20661430
22.  Lineage-specific T cell responses to cancer mucosa antigen oppose systemic metastases without mucosal inflammatory disease 
Cancer research  2009;69(8):3537-3544.
Cancer mucosa antigens comprise an emerging category of self-antigens expressed normally in immunologically privileged mucosal compartments and universally by their derivative tumors (1, 2). These antigens leverage the established immunological partitioning of systemic and mucosal compartments (3, 4), limiting tolerance opposing systemic antitumor efficacy (5). An unresolved issue surrounding self-antigens as immunotherapeutic targets is autoimmunity following systemic immunization (6-8). In the context of cancer mucosa antigens, immune effectors to self-antigens risk amplifying mucosal inflammatory disease promoting carcinogenesis (9). Here, we examined the relationship between immunotherapy for systemic colon cancer metastases targeting the intestinal cancer mucosa antigen GCC and its impact on inflammatory bowel disease and carcinogenesis in mice. Immunization with GCC-expressing viral vectors opposed nascent tumor growth in mouse models of pulmonary metastasis reflecting systemic lineage-specific tolerance characterized by CD8+, but not CD4+, T cell or antibody responses. Responses protecting against systemic metastases spared intestinal epithelium from autoimmunity, and systemic GCC immunity did not amplify chemically-induced inflammatory bowel disease. Moreover, GCC immunization failed to promote intestinal carcinogenesis induced by germline mutations or chronic inflammation. The established role of CD8+ T cells in antitumor efficacy, but CD4+ T cells in autoimmunity, suggest lineage-specific responses to GCC are particularly advantageous to protect against systemic metastases without mucosal inflammation. These observations support the utility of GCC-targeted immunotherapy in patients at risk for systemic metastases, including those with inflammatory bowel disease, hereditary colorectal cancer syndromes, and sporadic colorectal cancer.
PMCID: PMC2707278  PMID: 19351847
Cancer; immunotherapy; cancer mucosa antigen; autoimmunity; guanylyl cyclase C
23.  Interferon Response and Viral Evasion by Members of the Family Rhabdoviridae 
Viruses  2009;1(3):832-851.
Like many animal viruses, those of the Rhabdoviridae family, are able to antagonize the type I interferon response and cause disease in mammalian hosts. Though these negative-stranded RNA viruses are very simple and code for as few as five proteins, they have been seen to completely abrogate the type I interferon response early in infection. In this review, we will discuss the viral organization and type I interferon evasion of rhabdoviruses, focusing on vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) and rabies virus (RABV). Despite their structural similarities, VSV and RABV have completely different mechanisms by which they avert the host immune response. VSV relies on the matrix protein to interfere with host gene transcription and nuclear export of anti-viral mRNAs. Alternatively, RABV uses its phosphoprotein to interfere with IRF-3 phosphorylation and STAT1 signaling. Understanding the virus-cell interactions and viral proteins necessary to evade the immune response is important in developing effective vaccines and therapeutics for this viral family.
PMCID: PMC3185512  PMID: 21994572
rhabdovirus; interferon; rabies virus; vesicular stomatitis virus
24.  Immune Modulating Effect by a Phosphoprotein-deleted Rabies Virus Vaccine Vector Expressing Two Copies of the Rabies Virus Glycoprotein Gene 
Vaccine  2008;26(50):6405-6414.
The type of immune response induced by a vaccine is a critical factor that determines its effectiveness in preventing infection or disease. Inactivated and live rabies virus (RV) vaccine strains elicit an IgG1-biased and IgG1/IgG2a-balanced antibody response, respectively. However, IgG2a antibodies are potent inducers of anti-viral effector functions, and therefore, a viral vaccine vector that can elicit an IgG2a-biased antibody response may be more effective against RV infection. Here we describe the humoral immune response of a live replication-deficient phosphoprotein (P)-deleted RV vector (SPBN-ΔP), or a recombinant P-deleted virus that expresses two copies of the RV glycoprotein (G) gene (SPBN-ΔP-RVG), and compare it to a UV-inactivated RV. Mice inoculated with UV-inactivated RV induced predominantly an IgG1-specific antibody response, while live recombinant SPBN-ΔP exhibited a mixed IgG1/IgG2a antibody response, which is consistent with the isotype profiles from the replication-competent parental viruses. Survivorship in mice after pathogenic RV challenge indicates a ten-fold higher efficiency of live SPBN-ΔP compared to UV-inactivated SPBN-ΔP. In addition, SPBN-ΔP-RVG induced a more rapid and robust IgG2a response that protected mice more effectively than SPBN-ΔP. Of note, 103 ffu of SPBN-ΔP-RVG induced anti-RV antibodies that were 100% protective in mice against pathogenic RV challenge. The increased immune response was directed not only against RV G but also against the ribonucleoprotein (RNP), indicating that the expression of two RV G genes from SPBN-ΔP-RVG enhances the immune response to other RV antigens as well. In addition, Rag2 mice inoculated intramuscularly with 105 ffu/mouse of SPBN-ΔP showed no clinical signs of rabies, and no viral RNA was detected in the spinal cord or brain of inoculated mice. Therefore, the safety of the P-deleted vectors along with the onset and magnitude of the IgG2a-induced immune response by SPBN-ΔP-RVG indicate that this vector holds great promise as either a therapeutic or preventative vaccine against RV or other infectious diseases.
PMCID: PMC2629409  PMID: 18804506
rabies virus; replication-deficient; viral vector; isotypes; antibody subclass; vaccine; phosphoprotein; post-exposure prophylaxis
25.  Guanylyl cyclase C -induced immunotherapeutic responses opposing tumor metastases without autoimmunity 
One of the greatest impediments to cancer immunotherapy is the paucity of antigens that are tumor-specific, sufficiently immunogenic, and shared among patients. Mucosa-restricted antigens that are expressed by tumor cells represent a novel class of vaccine targets exploiting immunologic privilege, which limits systemic tolerance to those antigens, and immunologic partitioning, which shields mucosae from systemic autoimmune responses. Here we defined the immunogenicity and antitumor efficacy of guanylyl cyclase C (GCC), a protein that is normally restricted to intestinal mucosa and universally expressed by metastatic colorectal cancer.
BALB/c mice (n=197) were immunized with recombinant viral vectors before (prophylactic) or after (therapeutic) a lethal challenge of GCC-expressing mouse colon cancer cells, and antitumor efficacy was monitored by quantifying metastasis and survival. Induction of autoimmunity was monitored by histopathology. Induction of GCC-specific B cell and CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and ELISpot, respectively. Tolerance to GCC was quantified by comparing responses in GCC-deficient (n=45) and wild-type (n=69) C57BL/6 mice. Statistical tests were two-sided.
Immunization with GCC-expressing viral vectors reduced the formation of metastases to liver (control vs GCC: mean = 30.4 vs 3.55 nodules, difference = 26.9 nodules, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 8.47 to 45.3 nodules; P = .008) and lung (control vs GCC: mean =263 vs 55.7 nodules, difference = 207, 95% CI = 163 to 251; P < .001) and extended the median survival of mice with established lung metastases following therapeutic immunization (control vs GCC: 29 vs 38 days, P = .024), without autoimmunity. Antitumor efficacy reflected asymmetric tolerance that was characterized by CD8+ T cell, but not CD4+ T cell or antibody, responses.
Immunologic partitioning together with immunologic privilege highlight the potential of mucosa-restricted antigens, particularly GCC, as therapeutic targets for metastatic cancer.
PMCID: PMC2749952  PMID: 18577748

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