Although live-attenuated measles virus (MV) vaccines have been used successfully for over 50 years, the target cells that sustain virus replication in vivo are still unknown. We generated a reverse genetics system for the live-attenuated MV vaccine strain Edmonston- Zagreb (EZ), allowing recovery of recombinant (r)MVEZ. Three recombinant viruses were generated that contained the open reading frame encoding enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) within an additional transcriptional unit (ATU) at various positions within the genome. rMVEZEGFP(1), rMVEZEGFP(3), and rMVEZEGFP(6) contained the ATU upstream of the N gene, following the P gene, and following the H gene, respectively. The viruses were compared in vitro by growth curves, which indicated that rMVEZEGFP(1) was overattenuated. Intratracheal infection of cynomolgus macaques with these recombinant viruses revealed differences in immunogenicity. rMVEZEGFP(1) and rMVEZEGFP(6) did not induce satisfactory serum antibody responses, whereas both in vitro and in vivo rMVEZEGFP(3) was functionally equivalent to the commercial MVEZ-containing vaccine. Intramuscular vaccination of macaques with rMVEZEGFP(3) resulted in the identification of EGFP+ cells in the muscle at days 3, 5, and 7 postvaccination. Phenotypic characterization of these cells demonstrated that muscle cells were not infected and that dendritic cells and macrophages were the predominant target cells of live-attenuated MV.

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Journal Journal of Virology
Rennick, L.J, de Vries, R.D, Carsillo, T.J, Lemon, K, van Amerongen, G, Ludlow, M, … de Swart, R.L. (2015). Live-attenuated measles virus vaccine targets dendritic cells and macrophages in muscle of nonhuman primates. Journal of Virology, 89(4), 2192–2200. doi:10.1128/JVI.02924-14