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Rev Med Virol. 2002 Sep-Oct;12(5):279-96.

Alphavirus vectors and vaccination.

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  • 1AlphaVax, Inc., P.O. Box 110307, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-0307, USA.


Alphaviruses are positive-stranded RNA viruses that have a broad host range and therefore are capable of replicating in many vertebrate and invertebrate cells. The single-stranded alphavirus genome is divided into two ORFs. The first ORF encodes the nonstructural proteins that are translated upon entry of the virus into the cytoplasm and are responsible for transcription and replication of viral RNA. The second ORF is under the control of a subgenomic promoter and normally encodes the structural proteins, which are responsible for encapsidation of viral RNA and final assembly into enveloped particles. Expression vectors have been engineered from at least three alphaviruses in which the structural protein gene region has been replaced by heterologous genes and have been shown to express high levels of the heterologous protein in cultured cells. These RNA vectors, known as replicons, are capable of replicating on their own but are not packaged into virus-like particles unless the structural proteins are provided in trans. Thus, replicons are single cycle vectors incapable of spreading from infected to noninfected cells. Because of these features, alphavirus replicon vectors are being developed as a platform vaccine technology for numerous viral, bacterial, protozoan and tumour antigens where they have been shown to be efficient inducers of both humoral and T cell responses. In addition, as the alphavirus structural proteins are not expressed in vaccine recipients, antivector immune responses are generally minimal, allowing for multiple effective immunisations of the same individual.

Copyright 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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