Measles Virus Infection of Primary Respiratory Epithelial Cells Derived from Rhesus Macaques
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Measles remains a leading vaccine-preventable cause of child mortality globally. Although a live-attenuated vaccine against measles virus (MV) is available, measles has been difficult to control. MV is a respiratory infection typically spread by aerosol droplets which target respiratory epithelial cells as initial sites of viral entry and replication. Primary tracheal and nasal epithelial cells (rmTECs/NECs) derived from rhesus macaques serve as an ideal system to study MV infection in the respiratory tract, because: 1) rmTECs/NECs are polarized and differentiated to mimic respiratory epithelium in vivo and 2) rhesus macaques are the only susceptible host to MV infection other than humans. We have optimized a method for culturing well-differentiated polarized rmTECs/NECs and shown that both WT and vaccine strains of MV successfully infect cells from both apical and basolateral surfaces. Though no significant difference in viral infection was observed with an increased duration of infection, viral titers maintained high. Evidence of infection was characterized by observations of changes in cell morphology and titering of infectious virus in the supernatant. A working in vitro model of the respiratory system is important in bringing greater appreciation and understanding for the development of a respiratory vaccine against measles.