Neutralizing antibodies (NAb) are important for interfering with horizontal transmission of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) leading to primary and congenital HCMV infection. Recent findings have shown that a pentameric virion complex formed by the glycoproteins gH/gL, UL128, UL130, and UL131A (UL128C) is required for HCMV entry into epithelial/endothelial cells (Epi/ EC) and is the target of potent NAb in HCMV-seropositive individuals. Using bacterial artificial chromosome technology, we have generated a modified vaccinia Ankara virus (MVA) that stably coexpresses all 5 rhesus CMV (RhCMV) proteins homologous to HCMV UL128C, termed MVA-RhUL128C. Coimmunoprecipitation confirmed the interaction of RhgH with the other 4 RhCMV subunits of the pentameric complex. All 8 RhCMV-naïve rhesus macaques (RM) vaccinated with MVA-RhUL128C developed NAb that blocked infection of monkey kidney epithelial cells (MKE) and rhesus fibroblasts. NAb titers induced by MVARhUL128C measured on both cell types at 2 to 6 weeks postvaccination were comparable to levels observed in naturally infected RM. In contrast, MVA expressing a subset of RhUL128C proteins or RhgB glycoprotein only minimally stimulated NAb that inhibited infection of MKE. In addition, following subcutaneous RhCMV challenge at 8 weeks postvaccination, animals vaccinated with MVA-RhUL128C showed reduced plasma viral loads. These results indicate that MVA expressing the RhUL128C induces NAb inhibiting RhCMV entry into both Epi/EC and fibroblasts and limits RhCMV replication in RM. This novel approach is the first step in developing a prophylactic HCMV vaccine designed to interfere with virus entry into major cell types permissive for viral replication, a required property of an effective vaccine.
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