After the contagion measles virus (MV) crosses the respiratory epithelium within myeloid cells that express the primary receptor signaling lymphocytic activation molecule (SLAM), it replicates briskly in SLAM-expressing cells in lymphatic organs. Later, the infection spreads to epithelia expressing nectin-4, an adherens junction protein expressed preferentially in the trachea, but how it gets there is not understood. To characterize the mechanisms of spread, we infected groups of 5 or 6 cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) with either a wild-type MV or its "N4-blind" derivative, which is unable to enter nectin-4-expressing cells because of the targeted mutation of two hemagglutinin residues. As expected, both viruses caused similar levels of immunosuppression, as monitored by reductions in white blood cell counts and lymphocyte proliferation activity. However, monkeys infected with the N4-blind MV cleared infection more rapidly. Wild-type virus-infected monkeys secreted virus, while marginal virus titers were detected in tracheal lavage fluid cells of N4-blind MV-infected hosts. Analyses of tracheal rings obtained at necropsy (day 12) documented widespread infection of individual cells or small cell clusters in the subepithelial lamina propria of monkeys infected with either virus. However, only wild-type MV spread to the epithelium, forming numerous infectious centers comprised of many contiguous columnar cells. Infected CD11c+ myeloid (macrophage or dendritic) cells were frequently observed in the lamina propria below epithelial infectious centers. Thus, MV may use myeloid cells as vehicles not only immediately after contagion but also to infect epithelia of tissues expressing nectin-4, including the trachea.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science