We have previously described a novel flavivirus vaccine technology based on a single-cycle, capsid (C) gene-deleted flavivirus called RepliVAX. RepliVAX can be propagated in cells that express high levels of C but undergoes only a single cycle of infection in vaccinated hosts. Here we report that we have adapted our RepliVAX technology to produce a dengue vaccine by replacing the prM/E genes of RepliVAX WN (a West Nile virus [WNV] RepliVAX) with the same genes of dengue virus type 2 (DENV2). Our first RepliVAX construct for dengue virus (RepliVAX D2) replicated poorly in WNV C-expressing cells. However, addition of mutations in prM and E that were selected during blind passage of a RepliVAX D2 derivative was used to produce a second-generation RepliVAX D2 (designated D2.2) that displayed acceptable growth in WNV C-expressing cells. RepliVAX D2.2 grew better in DENV2 C-expressing cells than WNV C-expressing cells, but after several passages in DENV2 C-expressing cells it acquired further mutations that permitted efficient growth in WNV C-expressing cells. We tested the potency and efficacy of RepliVAX D2.2 in a well-described immunodeficient mouse model for dengue (strain AG129; lacking the receptors for both type I and type II interferons). These mice produced dose-dependent DENV2-neutralizing antibody responses when vaccinated with RepliVAX D2.2. When challenged with 240 50% lethal doses of DENV2, mice given a single inoculation of RepliVAX D2.2 survived significantly longer than sham-vaccinated animals, although some of these severely immunocompromised mice eventually died from the challenge. Taken together these studies indicate that the RepliVAX technology shows promise for use in the development of vaccines that can be used to prevent dengue.
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