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Characterization of host responses to Vaccinia virus infection

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Vaccinia virus (VACV) is the current vaccine for the highly infectious smallpox disease. Since the eradication of smallpox, VACV has been developed extensively as a heterologous vaccine vector for several

Vaccinia virus (VACV) is the current vaccine for the highly infectious smallpox disease. Since the eradication of smallpox, VACV has been developed extensively as a heterologous vaccine vector for several pathogens. However, due to the complications associated with this replication competent virus, the safety and efficacy of VACV vaccine vector has been reevaluated. To evaluate the safety and efficacy of VACV, we study the interactions between VACV and the host innate immune system, especially the type I interferon (IFN) signaling pathways. In this work, we evaluated the role of protein kinase R (PKR) and Adenosine Deaminase Acting on RNA 1(ADAR1), which are induced by IFN, in VACV infection. We found that PKR is necessary but is not sufficient to activate interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3) in the induction of type I IFN; and the activation of the stress-activated protein kinase/ c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase is required for the PKR-dependent activation of IRF3 during VACV infection. Even though PKR was found to have an antiviral effect in VACV, ADAR1 was found to have a pro-viral effect by destabilizing double stranded RNA (dsRNA), rescuing VACVΔE3L, VACV deleted of the virulence factor E3L, when provided in trans. With the lessons we learned from VACV and host cells interaction, we have developed and evaluated a safe replication-competent VACV vaccine vector for HIV. Our preliminary results indicate that our VACV vaccine vector can still induce the IFN pathway while maintaining the ability to replicate and to express the HIV antigen efficiently. This suggests that this VACV vector can be used as a safe and efficient vaccine vector for HIV.

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Date Created
  • 2013

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A vaccine to close the window of opportunity for measles infection

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Despite the safe and effective use of attenuated vaccines for over fifty years, measles virus (MV) remains an insidious threat to global health. Problematically, infants less than one year of

Despite the safe and effective use of attenuated vaccines for over fifty years, measles virus (MV) remains an insidious threat to global health. Problematically, infants less than one year of age, who are the most prone to severe infection and death by measles, cannot be immunized using current MV vaccines. For this dissertation, I generated and performed preclinical evaluation of two novel MV vaccine candidates. Based on data from clinical trials that showed increasing the dosage of current MV vaccines improved antibody responses in six-month-old recipients, I hypothesized that increasing the relevant antigenic stimulus of a standard titer dose would allow safe and effective immunization at a younger age. I generated two modified MVs with increased expression of the hemagglutinin (H) protein, the most important viral antigen for inducing protective neutralizing immunity, in the background of a current vaccine-equivalent. One virus, MVvac2-H2, expressed higher levels of full-length H, resulting in a three-fold increase in H incorporation into virions, while the second, MVvac2-Hsol, expressed and secreted truncated, soluble H protein to its extracellular environment. The alteration to the virion envelope of MVvac2-H2 conferred upon that virus a measurable resistance to in vitro neutralization. In initial screening in adult mouse models of vaccination, both modified MVs proved more immunogenic than their parental strain in outbred mice, while MVvac2-H2 additionally proved more immunogenic in the gold standard MV-susceptible mouse model. Remarkably, MVvac2-H2 better induced protective immunity in the presence of low levels of artificially introduced passive immunity that mimic the passive maternal immunity that currently limits vaccination of young infants, and that strongly inhibited responses to the current vaccine-equivalent. Finally, I developed a more physiological infant-like mouse model for MV vaccine testing, in which MV-susceptible dams vaccinated with the current vaccine-equivalent transfer passive immunity to their pups. This model will allow additional preclinical evaluation of the performance of MVvac2-H2 in pups of immune dams. Altogether, in this dissertation I identify a promising candidate, MVvac2-H2, for a next generation measles vaccine.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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Characterization of the E3L amino-terminus in poxvirus replication and tumor regression

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Host organisms have evolved multiple mechanisms to defend against a viral infection and likewise viruses have evolved multiple methods to subvert the host's anti-viral immune response. Vaccinia virus (VACV)

Host organisms have evolved multiple mechanisms to defend against a viral infection and likewise viruses have evolved multiple methods to subvert the host's anti-viral immune response. Vaccinia virus (VACV) is known to contain numerous proteins involved in blocking the cellular anti-viral immune response. The VACV E3L protein is important for inhibiting the anti-viral immune response and deletions within this gene lead to a severe attenuation. In particular, VACV containing N-terminal truncations in E3L are attenuated in animal models and fail to replicate in murine JC cells. Monkeypox virus (MPXV) F3L protein is a homologue of the VACV E3L protein, however it is predicted to contain a 37 amino acid N-terminal truncation. Despite containing an N-terminal truncation in the E3L homologue, MPXV is able to inhibit the anti-viral immune response similar to wild-type VACV and able to replicate in JC cells. This suggests that MPXV has evolved another mechanism(s) to counteract host defenses and promote replication in JC cells. MPXV produces less dsRNA than VACV during the course of an infection, which may explain why MPXV posses a phenotype similar to VACV, despite containing a truncated E3L homologue. The development of oncolytic viruses as a therapy for cancer has gained interest in recent years. Oncolytic viruses selectively replicate in and destroy cancerous cells and leave normal cells unharmed. Many tumors possess dysregulated anti-viral signaling pathways, since these pathways can also regulate cell growth. Creating a mutation in the N-terminus of the VACV-E3L protein generates an oncolytic VACV that depends on dysregulated anti-viral signaling pathways for replication allowing for direct targeting of the cancerous cells. VACV-E3Ldel54N selectively replicates in numerous cancer cells lines and not in the normal cell lines. Additionally, VACV-E3Ldel54N is safe and effective in causing tumor regression in a xenograph mouse model. Lastly, VACV-E3Ldel54N was capable of spreading from the treated tumors to the untreated tumors in both a xenograph and syngeneic mouse model. These data suggest that VACV-E3Ldel54N could be an effective oncolytic virus for the treatment of cancer.

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Date Created
  • 2010