4 years ago

microRNA-based attenuation of influenza virus across susceptible hosts.

Louisa E Sjaastad, Ryan A Langlois, Branden Moriarity, Jessica K Fiege, Barbara M Waring, Ismarc Reyes, Elizabeth J Fay
Influenza A virus drives significant morbidity and mortality in humans and livestock. Annual circulation of the virus in livestock and waterfowl contributes to severe economic disruption and increases the risk of zoonotic transmission of novel strains into the human population where there is no preexisting immunity. Seasonal vaccinations in humans help prevent infection and can reduce symptoms when infection does occur. However, current vaccination regimens available for livestock are limited in part due to safety concerns regarding reassortment/recombination with circulating strains. Therefore, inactivated vaccines are used instead of the more immunostimulatory live attenuated vaccines. microRNAs have been previously used to generate attenuated influenza A viruses for use as a vaccine. Here we systematically targeted individual influenza gene mRNAs using the same miRNA to determine the segment(s) that yield maximal attenuation potential. This analysis demonstrated that targeting of NP mRNA most efficiently ablates replication. We further increased the plasticity of miRNA-mediated attenuation of influenza A virus by exploiting a miRNA, miR-21, that is ubiquitously expressed across influenza-susceptible hosts. In order to construct this targeted virus we used CRISPR/Cas9 to eliminate the universally expressed miR-21 from MDCK cells. miR-21 targeted viruses were attenuated in human, mouse, canine, and avian cells and drove protective immunity in mice. This strategy has the potential to enhance the safety of live attenuated vaccines in humans and zoonotic reservoirs.IMPORTANCE Influenza A virus circulates annually in both avian and human populations causing significant morbidity, mortality, and economic burden. High incidence of zoonotic infections greatly increases the potential for transmission to humans, where no preexisting immunity or vaccine exists. There is a critical need for new vaccine strategies to combat emerging influenza outbreaks. microRNAs have been previously used to attenuate influenza A viruses. We propose the development of a novel platform to produce live attenuated vaccines that are highly customizable, efficacious across a broad species range, and exhibit enhanced safety over traditional vaccination methods. This strategy exploits a microRNA that is expressed abundantly in influenza susceptible hosts. By eliminating this ubiquitous microRNA from a cell line targeted viruses that are attenuated across susceptible strains can be generated. This approach greatly increases the plasticity of the microRNA targeting approach and enhancing vaccine safety.

Publisher URL: http://doi.org/10.1128/JVI.01741-17

DOI: 10.1128/JVI.01741-17

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