Advancement of new vaccines based on live viral vectors requires sensitive assays to analyze in vivo replication, gene expression and genetic stability. In this study, attenuated canine distemper virus (CDV) was used as a vaccine delivery vector and duplex 2-step quantitative real-time RT-PCR (RT-qPCR) assays specific for genomic RNA (gRNA) or mRNA have been developed that concurrently quantify coding sequences for the CDV nucleocapsid protein (N) and a foreign vaccine antigen (SIV Gag). These amplicons, which had detection limits of about 10 copies per PCR reaction, were used to show that abdominal cavity lymphoid tissues were a primary site of CDV vector replication in infected ferrets, and importantly, CDV gRNA or mRNA was undetectable in brain tissue. In addition, the gRNA duplex assay was adapted for monitoring foreign gene insert genetic stability during in vivo replication by analyzing the ratio of CDV N and SIV gag genomic RNA copies over the course of vector infection. This measurement was found to be a sensitive probe for assessing the in vivo genetic stability of the foreign gene insert.
Keywords: Canine distemper virus vaccine vector; Duplex real-time qPCR; Ferrets; SIV gag.
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