Recombinant parainfluenza virus 3 (rPIV3) is being developed as a vector to express foreign genes as a bivalent or multivalent live attenuated virus vaccine. In the present study, we examined the effect of inserted foreign sequence on virus replication in vitro and in vivo, focusing on the parameter of insert length. In one type of construct, foreign sequence of increasing length was flanked by PIV3 transcription signals and inserted as an additional gene unit (GU insert) between the HN and L genes, so that one additional mRNA would be made. In a second type of construct, foreign sequence was inserted into the downstream NCR (NCR insert) of the HN gene, so that the number of encoded mRNAs remained unchanged. In each case, the foreign sequence was designed to lack any significant open reading frame, which permitted an evaluation of the effect of insert length on replication independent of an effect of an expressed protein. The GU or NCR insert sizes ranged from 168 nucleotides (nt) to 3918 nt, rPIV3s containing GU insertions of up to 3918 nt in length, the largest size tested, were viable and replicated efficiently at permissive temperatures in vitro, but a reduction in plaque size was seen at 39°C and 40°C. The rPIV3 with a 3918-nt GU insertion was restricted in replication in the upper (fivefold) and lower (25-fold) respiratory tracts of hamsters. Although a 1908-nt GU insertion did not significantly modify replication of wild-type PIV3 in vitro or in vivo, its introduction significantly augmented the level of temperature sensitivity (ts) and attenuation (att) specified by three mutations in the L protein of a cold-passaged attenuated PIV3 vaccine virus, rPIV3s bearing a 3126- or 3894- nt NCR insertion exhibited in vitro and in vivo phenotypes like those of the rPIV3s bearing similar-sized GU insertions. These findings indicate that rPIV3s whose genome length has been increased by more than 3000 nt by either a GU or an NCR insertion exhibit an unexpected host-range phenotype, that is, efficient replication in vitro but restricted replication in hamsters, especially in the lower respiratory tract. Furthermore, these effects were greatly enhanced when the rPIV3 backbone contained other ts or att mutations. The implications of these findings for the use of single-stranded, negative- sense RNA viruses as vectors for vaccines are discussed. (C) 2000 Academic Press.
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