Measles virus genes encoding the haemagglutinin (HA), fusion protein (F) or nucleoprotein (NP) have been inserted into the vaccinia virus genome either alone or in various combinations. In each case the measles virus genes were expressed from the 7.5K promoter and were incorporated into the thymidine kinase (tk) or K1L loci of the Copenhagen strain of vaccinia virus. Cells infected by the recombinants synthesized measles virus proteins indistinguishable from those induced in measles virus-infected cells. However, in some instances the level of expression in cells infected by recombinants expressing more than one measles virus gene was reduced when compared to those encoding a single gene. The sera from mice immunized with recombinants containing either HA, HA.F, HA.NP or HA.F.NP had similar levels of measles virus neutralizing antibodies which remained constant throughout a 7 month period. Analysis of these sera by immunoprecipitation of radiolabelled measles virus confirmed the presence of specific antibody to each of the antigens where appropriate. The introduction of the measles virus genes into the K1L and the tk sites despite attenuating the virus for mice by 10-fold and 1000-fold respectively did not affect the vaccination efficiency, i.e. ability to induce measles virus antibody and protect mice. Vaccination of BALB/c (H2d) mice with HA and F, but not NP, recombinants completely protected the animals against a lethal measles virus challenge. In contrast, although the HA recombinant protected CBA (H2k) mice, the F recombinant did so poorly. However, by immunizing CBA mice with a recombinant expressing both F and NP, protection was increased to more than 75%. Our findings demonstrate the ability of three measles virus antigens expressed from the vaccinia virus genome alone or in combination to contribute to protective immunity against measles virus infection of mice. They also suggest that the association of measles virus antigens in a single recombinant DNA vaccine could be beneficial to overcome host-related restriction of the immune response to particular antigens.


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