Inclusion of the Viral Pentamer Complex in a Vaccine Design Greatly Improves Protection against Congenital Cytomegalovirus in the Guinea Pig Model. Academic Article uri icon


  • A vaccine against congenital cytomegalovirus (cCMV) is a high priority. The guinea pig is a small-animal model for cCMV. A disabled infectious single-cycle (DISC) viral vaccine strain based on a guinea pig cytomegalovirus (GPCMV) capsid mutant was evaluated. A previous version of this vaccine did not express the gH/gL-based pentamer complex (PC) and failed to fully protect against cCMV. The PC is necessary for GPCMV epithelial cell/trophoblast tropism and congenital infection and is a potentially important neutralizing antigen. Here, we show that a second-generation PC-positive (PC+) DISC (DISCII) vaccine induces neutralizing antibodies to the PC and other glycoproteins and a cell-mediated response to pp65 (GP83). Additionally, a CRISPR/Cas9 strategy identified guinea pig platelet-derived growth factor receptor alpha (PDGFRA) to be the receptor for PC-independent infection of fibroblast cells. Importantly, PDGFRA was absent in epithelial and trophoblast cells, which were dependent upon the viral PC for infection. Virus neutralization by DISCII antibodies on epithelial and trophoblast cells was similar to that in sera from wild-type virus-infected animals and dependent in part on PC-specific antibodies. In contrast, sera from PC-negative virus-infected animals poorly neutralized virus on non-fibroblast cells. DISCII-vaccinated animals were protected against congenital infection, in contrast to a nonvaccinated group. The target organs of pups in the vaccine group were negative for wild-type virus, unlike those of pups in the control group, with GPCMV transmission being approximately 80%. Overall, the DISCII vaccine had 97% efficacy against cCMV. The complete protection provided by this PC+ DISC vaccine makes the possibility of the use of this approach against human cCMV attractive.IMPORTANCE Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a leading cause of congenital disease in newborns, and an effective vaccine remains an elusive goal. The guinea pig is the only small-animal model for cCMV. Guinea pig cytomegalovirus (GPCMV) encodes a glycoprotein pentamer complex (PC) for entry into non-fibroblast cells, including placental trophoblasts, to enable cCMV. As with human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), GPCMV uses a specific cell receptor (PDGFRA) for fibroblast entry, but other receptors are required for non-fibroblast cells. A disabled infectious single-cycle (DISC) GPCMV vaccine strain induced an antibody immune response to the viral pentamer to enhance virus neutralization on non-fibroblast cells, and vaccinated animals were fully protected against cCMV. Inclusion of the PC as part of a vaccine design dramatically improved vaccine efficacy, and this finding underlines the importance of the immune response to the PC in contributing toward protection against cCMV. This vaccine represents an important milestone in the development of a vaccine against cCMV.

published proceedings

  • J Virol

altmetric score

  • 1.1

author list (cited authors)

  • Choi, K. Y., El-Hamdi, N. S., & McGregor, A.

citation count

  • 19

complete list of authors

  • Choi, K Yeon||El-Hamdi, Nadia S||McGregor, Alistair

editor list (cited editors)

  • Sandri-Goldin, R. M.

publication date

  • November 2019