Immunity to Hantavirus Challenge in Meriones Unguiculatus Induced by Vaccinia-Vectored Viral Proteins

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  • Special Pathogens Branch, Division of Viral and Rickttsial Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia

Vaccinia virus recombinants were constructed that incorporated genomic sequences coding for the nucleoprotein (N) and glycoproteins (G1 and G2) of the hantavirus R22 strain isolated from a rat in China, and designated as RNV and RMV9, respectively. The proteins expressed by RNV and RMV9 were identified by radioimmunoprecipitation and indirect immunofluorescence assay using a panel of monoclonal antibodies and polyclonal immune sera, and were found to be antigenically indistinguishable from authentic R22 viral proteins. Both RNV and RMV9 elicited an anti-R22 antibody response in Mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus) with titers ranging from 6,400 to 12,800 by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, but only RMV9 produced neutralizing antibodies to R22 virus (titer 1:200) and Hantaan (HTN) virus (titer 1:20). The ability of these recombinants to protect Mongolian gerbils against challenge with R22 and HTN viruses was examined. The RMV9 recombinant induced a complete protective immune response against challenge with 104 plaque-forming units (PFU) of both R22 and HTN viruses, while RNV induced partial protection against a challenge with the homologous R22 virus and the heterologous HTN virus at a dose of 103 PFU. Our data show that the common antigenic sites responsible for eliciting a protective response are located mainly on hantavirus glycoproteins, and that the nucleoprotein may also confer partial cross-protection that presumably involves cell-mediated as well as humoral mechanisms.