Raccoon polyomavirus (RacPyV) is associated with 100% of neuroglial tumors in free-ranging raccoons. Other tumor-associated polyomaviruses (PyVs), including simian virus 40 (SV40), murine PyV, and Merkel cell PyV, are found integrated in the host genome in neoplastic cells, where they constitutively express splice variants of the tumor antigen (TAg) gene. We have previously reported that RacPyV exists only as an episome (nonintegrated) in neuroglial tumors. Here, we have investigated TAg transcription in primary tumor tissue by transcriptome analysis, and we identified the alternatively spliced TAg transcripts for RacPyV. We also determined that TAg was highly transcribed relative to host cellular genes. We further colocalized TAg DNA and mRNA by in situ hybridization and found that the majority of tumor cells showed positive staining. Lastly, we examined the stability of the viral genome and TAg transcription by quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR in cultured tumor cells in vitro and in a mouse xenograft model. When tumor cells were cultured in vitro, TAg transcription increased nearly 2 log-fold over that of parental tumor tissue by passage 17. Both episomal viral genome and TAg transcription were faithfully maintained in culture and in tumors arising from xenotransplantation of cultured cells in mice. This study represents a minimal criterion for RacPyV's association with neuroglial tumors and a novel mechanism of stability for a polyomavirus in cancer.
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*?G(HA) was propagated on helper cells providing the VSV G protein in trans. Vaccination of chickens with a single intramuscular dose of 2×10? 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.
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