Genetic variation in vitro and in vivo of an attenuated lassa vaccine candidate

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Journal Article
Journal of Virology, 2014, 88 (6), pp. 3058 - 3066
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The attenuated Lassa vaccine candidate ML29 is a laboratory-produced reassortant between Lassa and Mopeia viruses, two Old World arenaviruses that differ by 40% in nucleic acid sequence. In our previous studies, ML29 elicited sterilizing immunity against Lassa virus challenge in guinea pigs and marmosets and virus-specific cell-mediated immunity in both simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-infected and uninfected rhesus macaques. Here, we show that ML29 is stable after 12 passages in vitro without losing its plaque morphology or its attenuated phenotype in suckling mice. Additionally, we used deep sequencing to characterize the viral population comprising the original stock of ML29, the stock of ML29 after 12 passages in Vero cells, and the ML29 isolates obtained from vaccinated animals. Twenty-seven isolates bore approximately 77 mutations that exceeded 20% of the single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) changes at any single locus. Of these 77 mutations, 5 appeared to be host specific, for example, appearing in mice but not in primates. None of these mutations were reversions of ML29 to the sequences of the parental Lassa and Mopeia viruses. The host-specific mutations indicate viral adaptations to virus-host interactions, and such interactions make reasonable targets for antiviral approaches. Variants capable of chronic infection did not emerge from any of the primate infections, even in immune-deficient animals, indicating that the ML29 reassortant is reasonably stable in vivo. In conclusion, the preclinical studies of ML29 as a Lassa virus vaccine candidate have been advanced, showing high levels of protection in nonhuman primates and acceptable stability both in vitro and in vivo. © 2014, American Society for Microbiology.
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