Attenuated measles virus (MV) is one of the most effective and safe vaccines available, making it an attractive candidate vector for preventing other infectious diseases. Yet the great capacity of this vaccine still needs to be understood at the molecular level. MV vaccine strains have different type I interferon (IFN)-inducing abilities that partially depend on the presence of 5' copy-back defective interfering genomes (DI-RNAs). DI-RNAs are pathogen-associated molecular patterns recognized by RIG-I-like receptors (RLRs) (RIG-I, MDA5, and LGP2) that activate innate immune signaling and shape the adaptive immune response. In this study, we characterized the DI-RNAs produced by various modified recombinant MVs (rMVs), including vaccine candidates, as well as wild-type MV. All tested rMVs produced 5' copy-back DI-RNAs that were different in length and nucleotide sequence but still respected the so-called "rule of six." We correlated the presence of DI-RNAs with a larger stimulation of the IFN-β pathway and compared their immunostimulatory potentials. Importantly, we revealed that encapsidation of DI-RNA molecules within the MV nucleocapsid abolished their immunoactive properties. Furthermore, we identified specific interactions of DI-RNAs with both RIG-I and LGP2 but not MDA5. Our results suggest that DI-RNAs produced by rMV vaccine candidates may indeed strengthen their efficiency by triggering RLR signaling.IMPORTANCE Having been administered to hundreds of millions of children, the live attenuated measles virus (MV) vaccine is the safest and most widely used human vaccine, providing high protection with long-term memory. Additionally, recombinant MVs carrying heterologous antigens are promising vectors for new vaccines. The great capacity of this vaccine still needs to be elucidated at the molecular level. Here we document that recombinant MVs produce defective interfering genomes that have high immunostimulatory properties via their binding to RIG-I and LGP2 proteins, both of which are cytosolic nonself RNA sensors of innate immunity. Defective interfering genome production during viral replication should be considered of great importance due to the immunostimulatory properties of these genomes as intrinsic adjuvants produced by the vector that increase recognition by the innate immune system.
Keywords: RIG-I-like receptors; defective interfering RNA; innate immunity; measles virus; type I interferon.
Copyright © 2017 American Society for Microbiology.