Measles virus preferentially transduces the basolateral surface of well-differentiated human airway epithelia

Patrick L. Sinn, Greg Williams, Sompong Vongpunsawad, Roberto Cattaneo, Paul B. McCray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Measles virus (MV) is typically spread by aerosol droplets and enters via the respiratory tract. The progression of MV infection has been widely studied; yet, the pathway for virus entry in polarized human airway epithelia has not been investigated. Herein we report the use of a replication-competent Edmonston vaccine strain of MV expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein (MV-eGFP) to infect primary cultures of well-differentiated human airway epithelia. Previous studies with polarized Caco-2 cells (intestine-derived human epithelia) and MDCK cells (kidney-derived canine epithelia) demonstrated that MV primarily infected and exited the apical surface. In striking contrast, our results indicate that MV preferentially transduces human airway cells from the basolateral surface; however, virus release remains in an apical direction. When MV-eGFP was applied apically or basolaterally to primary cultures of airway epithelia, discrete foci of eGFP expression appeared and grew; however, the cell layer integrity was maintained for the duration of the study (7 days). Interestingly, utilizing immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy, we observed widespread expression of the receptor for the vaccine strain of MV (CD46) at greatest abundance on the apical surface of the differentiated human airway epithelia as well as in human tracheal tissue sections. These data suggest that the progression of MV infection through the respiratory epithelium may involve pathways other than direct binding and entry through the apical surface of airway epithelia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2403-2409
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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