Creation of matrix protein gene variants of two serotypes of vesicular stomatitis virus as prime-boost vaccine vectors

Journal Reference

J Virol. 2015;89(12):6338-51.

Kim GN1, Wu K1, Hong JP1, Awamleh Z1, Kang CY2.

[expand title=”Show Affiliations”]
  1. Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.
  2. Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada [email protected].


To take advantage of live recombinant vesicular stomatitis viruses (rVSVs) as vaccine vectors for their high yield and for their induction of strong and long-lasting immune responses, it is necessary to make live vaccine vectors safe for use without losing their immunogenicity. We have generated safer and highly efficient recombinant VSV vaccine vectors by combining the M51R mutation in the M gene of serotype VSV-Indiana (VSVInd) with a temperature-sensitive mutation (tsO23) of the VSVInd Orsay strain. In addition, we have generated two new serotype VSV-New Jersey (VSVNJ) vaccine vectors by combining M48R and M51R mutations with G22E and L110F mutations in the M gene, rVSVNJ(G22E M48R M51R) [rVSVNJ(GMM)] and VSVNJ(G22E M48R M51R L110F) [rVSVNJ(GMML)]. The combined mutations G21E, M51R, and L111F in the Mprotein of VSVInd significantly reduced the burst size of the virus by up to 10,000-fold at 37°C without affecting the level of protein expression. BHK21 cells and SH-SY5Y human neuroblastoma cells infected with rVSVInd(GML), rVSVNJ(GMM), and rVSVNJ(GMML) showed significantly reduced cytopathic effects in vitro at 37°C, and mice injected with 1 million infectious virus particles of these mutants into the brain showed no neurological dysfunctions or any other adverse effects. In order to increase the stability of the temperature-sensitive mutant, we have replaced the phenylalanine with alanine. This will change all three nucleotides from UUG (leucine) to GCA (alanine). The resulting L111A mutant showed the temperature-sensitive phenotype of rVSVInd(GML) and increased stability. Twenty consecutive passages of rVSVInd(GML) with an L111A mutation did not convert back to leucine (UUG) at position 111 in the M protein gene.


Recombinant vesicular stomatitis viruses as live vaccine vectors are very effective in expressing foreign genes and inducing adaptive T cell and B cell immune responses. As with any other live viruses in humans or animals, the use of live rVSVs as vaccine vectors demands the utmost safety. Our strategy to attenuate rVSVInd by utilizing a temperature-sensitive assembly-defective mutation of L111A and combining it with an M51R mutation in the M protein of rVSVInd significantly reduced the pathogenicity of the virus while maintaining highly effective virus production. We believe our new temperature-sensitive M gene mutant of rVSVInd(GML) and M gene mutants of rVSVNJ(GMM) and rVSVNJ(GMML) add excellent vaccine vectors to the pool of live viral vectors.

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