Buruli ulcer (BU) is a slowly progressing, necrotising disease of the skin caused by infection with Mycobacterium ulcerans. Non-ulcerative manifestations are nodules, plaques and oedema, which may progress to ulceration of large parts of the skin. Histopathologically, BU is characterized by coagulative necrosis, fat cell ghosts, epidermal hyperplasia, clusters of extracellular acid fast bacilli (AFB) in the subcutaneous tissue and lack of major inflammatory infiltration. The mode of transmission of BU is not clear and there is only limited information on the early pathogenesis of the disease available.
For evaluating the potential of the pig as experimental infection model for BU, we infected pigs subcutaneously with different doses of M. ulcerans. The infected skin sites were excised 2.5 or 6.5 weeks after infection and processed for histopathological analysis. With doses of 2×107 and 2×106 colony forming units (CFU) we observed the development of nodular lesions that subsequently progressed to ulcerative or plaque-like lesions. At lower inoculation doses signs of infection found after 2.5 weeks had spontaneously resolved at 6.5 weeks. The observed macroscopic and histopathological changes closely resembled those found in M. ulcerans disease in humans.
Our results demonstrate that the pig can be infected with M. ulcerans. Productive infection leads to the development of lesions that closely resemble human BU lesions. The pig infection model therefore has great potential for studying the early pathogenesis of BU and for the development of new therapeutic and prophylactic interventions.
Buruli ulcer caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans infection is a necrotizing disease of the skin and the underlying subcutaneous tissue. Since the skin of pigs (Sus scrofa) has striking structural and physiological similarities with human skin, we investigated whether it is possible to develop an experimental M. ulcerans infection model by subcutaneous injection of the mycobacteria into pig skin. Injection of 2×106 or 2×107 colony forming units of M. ulcerans led to the development of lesions that were both macroscopically and microscopically very similar to human Buruli ulcer lesions. In particular for the characterization of the pathogenesis of Buruli ulcer and of immune defence mechanisms against M. ulcerans, the pig model appears to be superior to the mouse foot pad model commonly used for the evaluation of the efficacy of chemotherapeutic regimens.
Bluetongue virus (BTV) is an arthropod-borne pathogen that causes an often fatal, hemorrhagic disease in ruminants. Different BTV serotypes occur throughout many temperate and tropical regions of the world. In 2006, BTV serotype 8 (BTV-8) emerged in Central and Northern Europe for the first time. Although this outbreak was eventually controlled using inactivated virus vaccines, the epidemic caused significant economic losses not only from the disease in livestock but also from trade restrictions. To date, BTV vaccines that allow simple serological discrimination of infected and vaccinated animals (DIVA) have not been approved for use in livestock. In this study, we generated recombinant RNA replicon particles based on single-cycle vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) vectors. Immunization of sheep with infectious VSV replicon particles expressing the outer capsid VP2 protein of BTV-8 resulted in induction of BTV-8 serotype-specific neutralizing antibodies. After challenge with a virulent BTV-8 strain, the vaccinated animals neither developed signs of disease nor showed viremia. In contrast, immunization of sheep with recombinant VP5 - the second outer capsid protein of BTV - did not confer protection. Discrimination of infected from vaccinated animals was readily achieved using an ELISA for detection of antibodies against the VP7 antigen. These data indicate that VSV replicon particles potentially represent a safe and efficacious vaccine platform with which to control future outbreaks by BTV-8 or other serotypes, especially in previously non-endemic regions where discrimination between vaccinated and infected animals is crucial.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses (HPAIV) of subtype H5N1 not only cause a devastating disease in domestic chickens and turkeys but also pose a continuous threat to public health. In some countries, H5N1 viruses continue to circulate and evolve into new clades and subclades. The rapid evolution of these viruses represents a problem for virus diagnosis and control. In this work, recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) vectors expressing HA of subtype H5 were generated. To comply with biosafety issues the G gene was deleted from the VSV genome. The resulting vaccine vector VSV*ΔG(HA) was propagated on helper cells providing the VSV G protein in trans. Vaccination of chickens with a single intramuscular dose of 2×108 infectious replicon particles without adjuvant conferred complete protection from lethal H5N1 infection. Subsequent application of the same vaccine strongly boosted the humoral immune response and completely prevented shedding of challenge virus and transmission to sentinel birds. The vaccine allowed serological differentiation of infected from vaccinated animals (DIVA) by employing a commercially available ELISA. Immunized chickens produced antibodies with neutralizing activity against multiple H5 viruses representing clades 1, 2.2, 2.5, and low-pathogenic avian influenza viruses (classical clade). Studies using chimeric H1/H5 hemagglutinins showed that the neutralizing activity was predominantly directed against the globular head domain. In summary, these results suggest that VSV replicon particles are safe and potent DIVA vaccines that may help to control avian influenza viruses in domestic poultry.
Avian influenza viruses (AIV) raise worldwide veterinary and public health concerns due to their potential for zoonotic transmission. While infection with highly pathogenic AIV results in high mortality in chickens, this is not necessarily the case in wild birds and ducks. It is known that innate immune factors can contribute to the outcome of infection. In this context, retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I) is the main cytosolic pattern recognition receptor known for detecting influenza A virus infection in mammalian cells. Chickens, unlike ducks, lack RIG-I, yet chicken cells do produce type I interferon (IFN) in response to AIV infection. Consequently, we sought to identify the cytosolic recognition elements in chicken cells. Chicken mRNA encoding the putative chicken analogs of CARDIF and LGP2 (chCARDIF and chLGP2, respectively) were identified. HT7-tagged chCARDIF was observed to associate with mitochondria in chicken DF-1 fibroblasts. The exogenous expression of chCARDIF, as well as of the caspase activation and recruitment domains (CARDs) of the chicken melanoma differentiation-associated protein 5 (chMDA5), strongly activated the chicken IFN-β (chIFN-β) promoter. The silencing of chMDA5, chCARDIF, and chIRF3 reduced chIFN-β levels induced by AIV, indicating their involvement in AIV sensing. As with mammalian cells, chLGP2 had opposing effects. While overexpression decreased the activation of the chIFN-β promoter, the silencing of endogenous chLGP2 reduced chIFN-β induced by AIV. We finally demonstrate that the chMDA5 signaling pathway is inhibited by the viral nonstructural protein 1. In conclusion, chicken cells, including DF-1 fibroblasts and HD-11 macrophage-like cells, employ chMDA5 for sensing AIV.
Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV)-based oncolytic virotherapy has the potential to significantly improve the prognosis of aggressive malignancies such as brain cancer. However, VSV's inherent neurotoxicity has hindered clinical development so far. Given that this neurotropism is attributed to the glycoprotein VSV-G, VSV was pseudotyped with the nonneurotropic envelope glycoprotein of the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV-GP→VSV-GP). Compared to VSV, VSV-GP showed enhanced infectivity for brain cancer cells in vitro while sparing primary human and rat neurons in vitro and in vivo, respectively. In conclusion, VSV-GP has a much wider therapeutic window than VSV and is thus more suitable for clinical applications, especially in the brain.
Type I interferons (IFN) comprise a family of cytokines that signal through a common cellular receptor to induce a plethora of genes with antiviral and other activities. Recombinant IFNs are used for the treatment of hepatitis C virus infection, multiple sclerosis, and certain malignancies. The capability of type I IFN to suppress virus replication and resultant cytopathic effects is frequently used to measure their bioactivity. However, these assays are time-consuming and require appropriate biosafety containment. In this study, an improved IFN assay is presented which is based on a recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) replicon encoding two reporter proteins, firefly luciferase and green fluorescent protein. The vector lacks the essential envelope glycoprotein (G) gene of VSV and is propagated on a G protein-expressing transgenic cell line. Several mammalian and avian cells turned out to be susceptible to infection with the complemented replicon particles. Infected cells readily expressed the reporter proteins at high levels five hours post infection. When human fibroblasts were treated with serial dilutions of human IFN-β prior to infection, reporter expression was accordingly suppressed. This method was more sensitive and faster than a classical IFN bioassay based on VSV cytopathic effects. In addition, the antiviral activity of human IFN-λ (interleukin-29), a type III IFN, was determined on Calu-3 cells. Both IFN-β and IFN-λ were acid-stable, but only IFN-β was resistant to alkaline treatment. The antiviral activities of canine, porcine, and avian type I IFN were analysed with cell lines derived from the corresponding species. This safe bioassay will be useful for the rapid and sensitive quantification of multi-species type I IFN and potentially other antiviral cytokines.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is hepatotropic and only infects humans and chimpanzees. Consequently, an immunocompetent small animal model is lacking. The restricted tropism of HCV likely reflects specific host factor requirements. We investigated if dominant restriction factors expressed in non-liver or non-human cell lines inhibit HCV propagation thus rendering these cells non-permissive. To this end we explored if HCV completes its replication cycle in heterokaryons between human liver cell lines and non-permissive cell lines from human non-liver or mouse liver origin. Despite functional viral pattern recognition pathways and responsiveness to interferon, virus production was observed in all fused cells and was only ablated when cells were treated with exogenous interferon. These results exclude that constitutive or virus-induced expression of dominant restriction factors prevents propagation of HCV in these cell types, which has important implications for HCV tissue and species tropism. In turn, these data strongly advocate transgenic approaches of crucial human HCV cofactors to establish an immunocompetent small animal model.
The barriers preventing viral transmission across species are only incompletely understood. On one hand, narrow tropism reflects dependence of viruses on host cell factors and their species-specific utilization. On the other hand, host cellular antiviral factors can preclude virus replication. These may be constitutively expressed or induced by interferon triggered upon viral infection. Although viruses have evolved strategies to cope with these “restriction factors” in their natural hosts, these mechanisms often fail in alternative host species. Consequently, restriction factors pose an important barrier to cross-species viral transmission. We investigated if virus-induced or constitutively expressed dominant restriction factors preclude HCV propagation in non-liver tissue and in non-human cells. Using cell fusions between human and mouse cells we show that HCV completes its replication cycle in these heterokaryons. Moreover, we show that the mouse cells analyzed by us are able to sense viral infection and to respond to exogenous interferon. These results rule out that constitutive or virus-induced dominant restriction factors preclude HCV propagation in these cells. These findings have implications for HCV tissue and species tropism and they raise hopes for development of immunocompetent small models for HCV by transgenesis of essential human factors and without manipulation of innate immune mechanisms.
RNA replicons are derived from either positive- or negative-strand RNA viruses. They represent disabled virus vectors that are not only avirulent, but also unable to revert to virulence. Due to autonomous RNA replication, RNA replicons are able to drive high level, cytosolic expression of recombinant antigens stimulating both the humoral and the cellular branch of the immune system. This review provides an update on the available literature covering influenza virus vaccines based on RNA replicons. The pros and cons of these vaccine strategies will be discussed and future perspectives disclosed.
RNA replicon; vaccine; biosafety; cellular immunity; mucosal immunity; heterosubtypic immunity; alphavirus; vesicular stomatitis virus
Infection with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) frequently causes inflammation and obstruction of the small airways, leading to severe pulmonary disease in infants. We show here that the RSV fusion (F) protein, an integral membrane protein of the viral envelope, is a strong elicitor of apoptosis. Inducible expression of F protein in polarized epithelial cells triggered caspase-dependent cell death, resulting in rigorous extrusion of apoptotic cells from the cell monolayer and transient loss of epithelial integrity. A monoclonal antibody directed against F protein inhibited apoptosis and was also effective if administered to A549 lung epithelial cells postinfection. F protein expression in epithelial cells caused phosphorylation of tumor suppressor p53 at serine 15, activation of p53 transcriptional activity, and conformational activation of proapoptotic Bax. Stable expression of dominant-negative p53 or p53 knockdown by RNA interference inhibited the apoptosis of RSV-infected A549 cells. HEp-2 tumor cells with low levels of p53 were not sensitive to RSV-triggered apoptosis. We propose a new model of RSV disease with the F protein as an initiator of epithelial cell shedding, airway obstruction, secondary necrosis, and consequent inflammation. This makes the RSV F protein a key target for the development of effective postinfection therapies.
Entry of most paramyxoviruses is accomplished by separate attachment and fusion proteins that function in a cooperative manner. Because of this close interdependence, it was not possible with most paramyxoviruses to replace either of the two protagonists by envelope glycoproteins from related paramyxoviruses. By using reverse genetics of Sendai virus (SeV), we demonstrate that chimeric respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) fusion proteins containing either the cytoplasmic domain of the SeV fusion protein or in addition the transmembrane domain were efficiently incorporated into SeV particles provided the homotypic SeV-F was deleted. In the presence of SeV-F, the chimeric glycoproteins were incorporated with significantly lower efficiency, indicating that determinants in the SeV-F ectodomain exist that contribute to glycoprotein uptake. Recombinant SeV in which the homotypic fusion protein was replaced with chimeric RSV fusion protein replicated in a trypsin-independent manner and was neutralized by antibodies directed to RSV-F. However, replication of this virus also relied on the hemagglutinin-neuraminidase (HN) as pretreatment of cells with neuraminidase significantly reduced the infection rate. Finally, recombinant SeV was generated with chimeric RSV-F as the only envelope glycoprotein. This virus was not neutralized by antibodies to SeV and did not use sialic acids for attachment. It replicated more slowly than hybrid virus containing HN and produced lower virus titers. Thus, on the one hand RSV-F can mediate infection in an autonomous way while on the other hand it accepts support by a heterologous attachment protein.
Transmissible gastroenteritis coronavirus (TGEV) is a porcine pathogen causing enteric infections that are lethal for suckling piglets. The enterotropism of TGEV is connected with the sialic acid binding activity of the viral surface protein S. Here we show that, among porcine intestinal brush border membrane proteins, TGEV recognizes a mucin-type glycoprotein designated MGP in a sialic acid-dependent fashion. Virus binding assays with cryosections of the small intestine from a suckling piglet revealed the binding of TGEV to mucin-producing goblet cells. A nonenteropathogenic mutant virus that lacked a sialic acid binding activity was unable to bind to MGP and to attach to goblet cells. Our results suggest a role of MGP in the enteropathogenicity of TGEV.
Human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV) and bovine RSV (BRSV) infect human beings and cattle in a species-specific manner. We have here analyzed the contribution of RSV envelope proteins to species-specific entry into cells. In contrast to permanent cell lines, primary cells of human or bovine origin, including differentiated respiratory epithelia, peripheral blood lymphocytes, and macrophages, showed a pronounced species-specific permissivity for HRSV and BRSV infection, respectively. Recombinant BRSV deletion mutants lacking either the small hydrophobic (SH) protein gene or both SH and the attachment glycoprotein (G) gene retained their specificity for bovine cells, whereas corresponding mutants carrying the HRSV F gene specifically infected human cells. To further narrow the responsible region of F, two reciprocal chimeric F constructs were assembled from BRSV and HRSV F1 and F2 subunits. The specificity of recombinant RSV carrying only the chimeric F proteins strictly correlated with the origin of the membrane-distal F2 domain. A contribution of G to the specificity of entry could be excluded after reintroduction of BRSV or HRSV G. Virus with F1 and G from BRSV and with only F2 from HRSV specifically infected human cells, whereas virus expressing F1 and G from HRSV and F2 from BRSV specifically infected bovine cells. The introduction of G enhanced the infectivities of both chimeric viruses to equal degrees. Thus, the role of the nominal attachment protein G is confined to facilitating infection in a non-species-specific manner, most probably by binding to cell surface glycosaminoglycans. The identification of the F2 subunit as the determinant of RSV host cell specificity facilitates identification of virus receptors and should allow for development of reagents specifically interfering with RSV entry.
Proteolytic processing of the respiratory syncytial virus F (fusion) protein results in the generation of the disulfide-linked subunits F1 and F2 and in the release of pep27, a glycopeptide originally located between the two furin cleavage sites FCS-1 (RKRR136) and FCS-2 (RAR/KR109). We made use of reverse genetics to study the importance of FCS-2 and of pep27 for BRSV replication in cell culture. Replacement of FCS-2 in the F protein of recombinant viruses by either of the sequences NANR109, RANN109 or SANN109, respectively, abolished proteolytic processing at this position, whereas the cleavage of FCS-1 was not affected. All mutants replicated in calf kidney and Vero cells in the absence of exogenous trypsin, although somewhat higher titers of BRSV containing the NANR109 or the RANN109 motif were achieved in the presence of trypsin. The virus mutants showed a reduced cytopathic effect which was lowest in the case of the SANN109 mutant. These findings demonstrate that cleavage at FCS-2 is dispensable for replication of respiratory syncytial virus in cell culture. A deletion mutant containing FCS-1 but lacking FCS-2 and most of pep27 replicated in cell culture as efficiently as the parental virus, indicating that this domain of the F protein is not essential for virus maturation and infectivity.
The surface glycoprotein S of transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) has two binding activities. (i) Binding to porcine aminopeptidase N (pAPN) is essential for the initiation of infection. (ii) Binding to sialic acid residues on glycoproteins is dispensable for the infection of cultured cells but is required for enteropathogenicity. By comparing parental TGEV with mutant viruses deficient in the sialic acid binding activity, we determined the contributions of both binding activities to the attachment of TGEV to cultured cells. In the presence of a functional sialic acid binding activity, the amount of virus bound to two different porcine cell lines was increased sixfold compared to the binding of the mutant viruses. The attachment of parental virus was reduced to levels observed with the mutants when sialic acid containing inhibitors was present or when the cells were pretreated with neuraminidase. In virus overlay binding assays with immobilized cell surface proteins, the mutant virus only recognized pAPN. In addition, the parental virus bound to a high-molecular-mass sialoglycoprotein. The recognition of pAPN was sensitive to reducing conditions and was not dependent on sialic acid residues. On the other hand, binding to the sialic acid residues of the high-molecular-mass glycoprotein was observed regardless of whether the cellular proteins had been separated under reducing or nonreducing conditions. We propose that binding to a surface sialoglycoprotein is required for TGEV as a primary attachment site to initiate infection of intestinal cells. This concept is discussed in the context of other viruses that use two different receptors to infect cells.
In polarized epithelial cells, the vesicular stomatitis virus glycoprotein is segregated to the basolateral plasma membrane, where budding of the virus takes place. We have generated recombinant viruses expressing mutant glycoproteins without the basolateral-membrane-targeting signal in the cytoplasmic domain. Though about 50% of the mutant glycoproteins were found at the apical plasma membranes of infected MDCK cells, the virus was still predominantly released at the basolateral membranes, indicating that factors other than the glycoprotein determine the site of virus budding.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) and measles virus (MV) cause severe illnesses in their respective hosts. The viruses display a characteristic cytopathic effect by forming syncytia in susceptible cells. For CDV, the proficiency of syncytium formation varies among different strains and correlates with the degree of viral attenuation. In this study, we examined the determinants for the differential fusogenicity of the wild-type CDV isolate 5804Han89 (CDV5804), the small- and large-plaque-forming variants of the CDV vaccine strain Onderstepoort (CDVOS and CDVOL, respectively), and the MV vaccine strain Edmonston B (MVEdm). The cotransfection of different combinations of fusion (F) and hemagglutinin (H) genes in Vero cells indicated that the H protein is the main determinant of fusion efficiency. To verify the significance of this observation in the viral context, a reverse genetic system to generate recombinant CDVs was established. This system is based on a plasmid containing the full-length antigenomic sequence of CDVOS. The coding regions of the H proteins of all CDV strains and MVEdm were introduced into the CDV and MV genetic backgrounds, and recombinant viruses rCDV-H5804, rCDV-HOL, rCDV-HEdm, rMV-H5804, rMV-HOL, and rMV-HOS were recovered. Thus, the H proteins of the two morbilliviruses are interchangeable and fully functional in a heterologous complex. This is in contrast with the glycoproteins of other members of the family Paramyxoviridae, which do not function efficiently with heterologous partners. The fusogenicity, growth characteristics, and tropism of the recombinant viruses were examined and compared with those of the parental strains. All these characteristics were found to be predominantly mediated by the H protein regardless of the viral backbone used.
The human respiratory syncytial virus (Long strain) fusion protein contains six potential N-glycosylation sites: N27, N70, N116, N120, N126, and N500. Site-directed mutagenesis of these positions revealed that the mature fusion protein contains three N-linked oligosaccharides, attached to N27, N70, and N500. By introducing these mutations into the F gene in different combinations, four more mutants were generated. All mutants, including a triple mutant devoid of any N-linked oligosaccharide, were efficiently transported to the plasma membrane, as determined by flow cytometry and cell surface biotinylation. None of the glycosylation mutations interfered with proteolytic activation of the fusion protein. Despite similar levels of cell surface expression, the glycosylation mutants affected fusion activity in different ways. While the N27Q mutation did not have an effect on syncytium formation, loss of the N70-glycan caused a fusion activity increase of 40%. Elimination of both N-glycans (N27/70Q mutant) reduced the fusion activity by about 50%. A more pronounced reduction of the fusion activity of about 90% was observed with the mutants N500Q, N27/500Q, and N70/500Q. Almost no fusion activity was detected with the triple mutant N27/70/500Q. These data indicate that N-glycosylation of the F2 subunit at N27 and N70 is of minor importance for the fusion activity of the F protein. The single N-glycan of the F1 subunit attached to N500, however, is required for efficient syncytium formation.