There are seven ‘established’ morbilliviruses: rinderpest (RPV), measles (MeV), small ruminant (PPRV), cetacean (CeMV), phocine (PDV), canine (CDV) and feline (FmoV) morbillivirus, the majority of which are thought to have narrow host ranges. The exception is CDV, which has been reported in almost all families of the order Carnivora, as well as non-human primates. Morbilliviruses enter cells through one of two proteinaceous receptors: signalling lymphocyte activation molecule F1 (SLAMF1), present on the surface of many immune cells; or Nectin-4, expressed on the basolateral side of various polarised epithelial cells. Given the close similarity of these viruses and their universal use of related receptors, there are realistic fears morbilliviruses may spill-over into naïve hosts, i.e. following eradication of RPV in cattle. This spill-over is not entirely unprecedented; PDV and MeV are thought to share common ancestors with CDV and RPV, respectively. To examine morbillivirus receptor usage and predict future spill-over and zoonotic transmission events, we have developed a high-throughput, quantifiable, cell-cell fusion assay. Effector cells, expressing the viral F and H glycoproteins as well as a split-luciferase reporter, are co-cultured with target cells expressing SLAMF1 or Nectin-4 receptors and the remaining half of the reporter. Upon functional receptor engagement the effector and target cells fuse, allowing cytoplasmic mixing and reconstitution of the reporter, a process which can be quantified. Using these assays we are investigating whether the receptor usage profile of morbilliviruses represents an important factor in spill-over transmission into new hosts.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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