Stronger together: Multi-genome transmission of measles virus

Roberto Cattaneo, Ryan C. Donohue, Alex R. Generous, Chanakha K. Navaratnarajah, Christian K. Pfaller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Measles virus (MeV) is an immunosuppressive, extremely contagious RNA virus that remains a leading cause of death among children. MeV is dual-tropic: it replicates first in lymphatic tissue, causing immunosuppression, and then in epithelial cells of the upper airways, accounting for extremely efficient contagion. Efficient contagion is counter-intuitive because the enveloped MeV particles are large and relatively unstable. However, MeV particles can contain multiple genomes, which can code for proteins with different functional characteristics. These proteins can cooperate to promote virus spread in tissue culture, prompting the question of whether multi-genome MeV transmission may promote efficient MeV spread also in vivo. Consistent with this hypothesis, in well-differentiated primary human airway epithelia large genome populations spread rapidly through intercellular pores. In another line of research, it was shown that distinct lymphocytic-adapted and epithelial-adapted genome populations exist; cyclical adaptation studies indicate that suboptimal variants in one environment may constitute a low frequency reservoir for adaptation to the other environment. Altogether, these observations suggest that, in humans, MeV spread relies on en bloc genome transmission, and that genomic diversity is instrumental for rapid MeV dissemination within hosts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-79
Number of pages6
JournalVirus Research
StatePublished - May 2019


  • Cyclical adaptation
  • Epithelial spread
  • Measles virus
  • Quasispecies
  • Tissue adaptation
  • Virus transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Cancer Research
  • Virology


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