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1.  Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Virus Replicon Particle Vaccine Protects Nonhuman Primates from Intramuscular and Aerosol Challenge with Ebolavirus 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(9):4952-4964.
There are no vaccines or therapeutics currently approved for the prevention or treatment of ebolavirus infection. Previously, a replicon vaccine based on Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) demonstrated protective efficacy against Marburg virus in nonhuman primates. Here, we report the protective efficacy of Sudan virus (SUDV)- and Ebola virus (EBOV)-specific VEEV replicon particle (VRP) vaccines in nonhuman primates. VRP vaccines were developed to express the glycoprotein (GP) of either SUDV or EBOV. A single intramuscular vaccination of cynomolgus macaques with VRP expressing SUDV GP provided complete protection against intramuscular challenge with SUDV. Vaccination against SUDV and subsequent survival of SUDV challenge did not fully protect cynomolgus macaques against intramuscular EBOV back-challenge. However, a single simultaneous intramuscular vaccination with VRP expressing SUDV GP combined with VRP expressing EBOV GP did provide complete protection against intramuscular challenge with either SUDV or EBOV in cynomolgus macaques. Finally, intramuscular vaccination with VRP expressing SUDV GP completely protected cynomolgus macaques when challenged with aerosolized SUDV, although complete protection against aerosol challenge required two vaccinations with this vaccine.
doi:10.1128/JVI.03361-12
PMCID: PMC3624300  PMID: 23408633
2.  Designing and Testing Broadly-Protective Filoviral Vaccines Optimized for Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Epitope Coverage 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e44769.
We report the rational design and in vivo testing of mosaic proteins for a polyvalent pan-filoviral vaccine using a computational strategy designed for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus type 1 (HIV-1) but also appropriate for Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and potentially other diverse viruses. Mosaics are sets of artificial recombinant proteins that are based on natural proteins. The recombinants are computationally selected using a genetic algorithm to optimize the coverage of potential cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes. Because evolutionary history differs markedly between HIV-1 and filoviruses, we devised an adapted computational technique that is effective for sparsely sampled taxa; our first significant result is that the mosaic technique is effective in creating high-quality mosaic filovirus proteins. The resulting coverage of potential epitopes across filovirus species is superior to coverage by any natural variants, including current vaccine strains with demonstrated cross-reactivity. The mosaic cocktails are also robust: mosaics substantially outperformed natural strains when computationally tested against poorly sampled species and more variable genes. Furthermore, in a computational comparison of cross-reactive potential a design constructed prior to the Bundibugyo outbreak performed nearly as well against all species as an updated design that included Bundibugyo. These points suggest that the mosaic designs would be more resilient than natural-variant vaccines against future Ebola outbreaks dominated by novel viral variants. We demonstrate in vivo immunogenicity and protection against a heterologous challenge in a mouse model. This design work delineates the likely requirements and limitations on broadly-protective filoviral CTL vaccines.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044769
PMCID: PMC3463593  PMID: 23056184
5.  Telemetric analysis to detect febrile responses in mice following vaccination with a live-attenuated virus vaccine 
Vaccine  2009;27(49):6814-6823.
Nonhuman primates (NHP) are considered to be the most appropriate model for predicting how humans will respond to many infectious diseases. Due to ethical and monetary concerns associated with the use of NHP, rodent models that are as predictive of responses likely to be seen in human vaccine recipients are warranted. Using implanted telemetry devices, body temperature and activity were monitored in inbred and outbred mouse strains following administration of the live-attenuated vaccine for Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV), V3526. Following analysis of individual mouse data, only outbred mouse strains showed changes in diurnal temperature and activity profiles following vaccination. Similar changes were observed following VEEV challenge of vaccinated outbred mice. From these studies, we conclude, outbred mouse strains implanted with telemeters are a sensitive model for predicting responses in humans following vaccination.
doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2009.09.013
PMCID: PMC2783281  PMID: 19761841
vaccine; mouse; telemetry
6.  High-Resolution Functional Mapping of the Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Virus Genome by Insertional Mutagenesis and Massively Parallel Sequencing 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(10):e1001146.
We have developed a high-resolution genomic mapping technique that combines transposon-mediated insertional mutagenesis with either capillary electrophoresis or massively parallel sequencing to identify functionally important regions of the Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) genome. We initially used a capillary electrophoresis method to gain insight into the role of the VEEV nonstructural protein 3 (nsP3) in viral replication. We identified several regions in nsP3 that are intolerant to small (15 bp) insertions, and thus are presumably functionally important. We also identified nine separate regions in nsP3 that will tolerate small insertions at low temperatures (30°C), but not at higher temperatures (37°C, and 40°C). Because we found this method to be extremely effective at identifying temperature sensitive (ts) mutations, but limited by capillary electrophoresis capacity, we replaced the capillary electrophoresis with massively parallel sequencing and used the improved method to generate a functional map of the entire VEEV genome. We identified several hundred potential ts mutations throughout the genome and we validated several of the mutations in nsP2, nsP3, E3, E2, E1 and capsid using single-cycle growth curve experiments with virus generated through reverse genetics. We further demonstrated that two of the nsP3 ts mutants were attenuated for virulence in mice but could elicit protective immunity against challenge with wild-type VEEV. The recombinant ts mutants will be valuable tools for further studies of VEEV replication and virulence. Moreover, the method that we developed is applicable for generating such tools for any virus with a robust reverse genetics system.
Author Summary
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) is a New World Alphavirus that was first identified in Venezuela in 1938. VEEV normally circulates in rodent populations, but during outbreaks it can jump to horses and humans where it can cause debilitating and potentially fatal disease. There are currently no vaccines or antiviral agents against VEEV licensed for use in humans. In this study, we describe a technique that we have developed that allows for the rapid identification of viral mutants that can be useful for studying the basic biology of viral replication. These mutants can also be used to generate vaccines that protect against infection with wild-type virus. We demonstrate the utility of this technique by identifying over 200 mutations spread throughout VEEV genome that make the virus unable to replicate efficiently at higher temperatures (37°C or 40°C.) Furthermore, we show that two of the mutant viruses work as vaccines, and protect mice against lethal infection with VEEV. This technique can be applied to studying other viruses, and may allow for the rapid identification of numerous vaccine candidates.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1001146
PMCID: PMC2954836  PMID: 20976195

Results 1-6 (6)