J Pathol 2015 Jan;235(2):253-65
Department of Microbiology, Boston University School of Medicine, MA, USA.
The identification of poliovirus receptor-like 4 (PVRL4) as the second natural receptor for measles virus (MV) has closed a major gap in our understanding of measles pathogenesis, and explains how this predominantly lymphotropic virus breaks through epithelial barriers to transmit to a susceptible host. Advances in the development of wild-type, recombinant MVs which express fluorescent proteins making infected cells readily detectable in living tissues and animals, has also increased our understanding of this important and highly transmissible human disease. Thus, it is timely to review how these advances have provided new insights into MV infection of immune, epithelial and neural cells. This demands access to primate samples that help us understand the early and acute stages of the disease, which are challenging to dissect due to the mild/self-limiting nature of the infection. It also requires well-characterized and rather rare human tissue samples from patients who succumb to neurological sequelae to help study the consequences of the long-term persistence of this RNA virus in vivo. Collectively, these studies have provided unique insights into how the use of two cellular receptors, CD150 and PVRL4, governs the in vivo tissue-specific temporal patterns of virus spread and resulting pathological lesions. Analysis of tissue samples has also demonstrated the importance of differing mechanisms of virus cell-to-cell spread within lymphoid, epithelial and neural tissues in the dissemination of MV during acute and long-term persistent infections. Given the incentive to eradicate MV globally, and the inevitable question as to whether or not vaccination should cease in light of the existence of closely related morbilliviruses, a thorough understanding of measles pathological lesions is essential.