Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) is a negative-stranded RNA virus normally sensitive to the antiviral actions of alpha/beta interferon (IFN-α/β). Recently, we reported that VSV replicates to high levels in many transformed cells due, in part, to susceptible cells harboring defects in the IFN system. These observations were exploited to demonstrate that VSV can be used as a viral oncolytic agent to eradicate malignant cells in vivo while leaving normal tissue relatively unaffected. To attempt to improve the specificity and efficacy of this system as a potential tool in gene therapy and against malignant disease, we have genetically engineered VSV that expresses the murine IFN-β gene. The resultant virus (VSV-IFNβ) was successfully propagated in cells not receptive to murine IFN-α/β and expressed high levels of functional heterologous IFN-β. In normal murine embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs), the growth of VSV-IFNβ was greatly reduced and diminished cytopathic effect was observed due to the production of recombinant IFN-β, which by functioning in a manner involving autocrine and paracrine mechanisms induced an antiviral effect, preventing virus growth. However, VSV-IFNβ grew to high levels and induced the rapid apoptosis of transformed cells due to defective IFN pathways being prevalent and thus unable to initiate proficient IFN-mediated host defense. Importantly, VSV expressing the human IFN-β gene (VSV-hIFNβ) behaved comparably and, while nonlytic to normal human cells, readily killed their malignant counterparts. Similar to our in vitro observations, following intravenous and intranasal inoculation in mice, recombinant VSV (rVSV)-IFNβ was also significantly attenuated compared to wild-type VSV or rVSV expressing green fluorescent protein. However, VSV-IFNβ retained propitious oncolytic activity against metastatic lung disease in immunocompetent animals and was able to generate robust antitumor T-cell responses. Our data indicate that rVSV designed to exploit defects in mechanisms of host defense can provide the basis for new generations of effective, specific, and safer viral vectors for the treatment of malignant and other disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science