Measles virus nucleocapsid transcript expression is not restricted to the osteoclast lineage in patients with Paget's disease of bone

Sakamuri V. Reddy, Cheikh Menaa, Frederick R. Singer, Tim Cundy, Jillian Cornish, Michael P. Whyte, G. David Roodman

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33 Scopus citations


Abundant evidence supports a viral etiology for Paget's disease of bone (PD), however, an infectious virus has not been isolated from PD patients. Thus, it is unclear how the virus is maintained for the many years that the disease persists in patients. We considered if a primitive multipotential hematopoietic stem cell (HSC), which is self-renewing, passes the virus to its differentiated progeny and serves as a reservoir for the pathogen. If a primitive stem cell harbored measles virus (MV), then other hematopoietic lineages derived from this stem cell in PD patients should also express MV transcripts. Therefore, because the human hematopoietic stem cell has not been clearly identified or isolated in large numbers, we isolated RNA from highly purified erythroid and multipotential hematopoietic progenitors that are the precursors for erythroid, granulocyte, megakaryocyte and macrophages (CFU-GEMM), and used RT-PCR to determine if MV nucleocapsid transcripts were present. MV transcripts were detected in PD patients in early erythroid (BFU- E) and more primitive multipotential myeloid progenitors (CFU-GEMM). Nonhematopoietic stromal cells from PD patients did not express MV transcripts. The expression of MV transcripts in erythroid progenitors was further confirmed by in situ hybridization using antisense riboprobes to MV nucleocapsid transcripts. Thus, our findings suggest that the pluripotent HSCs may be a potential reservoir for the virus. We propose that when HSCs, which contain MV, divide they produce a second HSC that serves as a reservoir for the virus and also transmit the virus to their more differentiated progeny in the erythroid and myeloid lineages. This mechanism would permit a defective virus to persist in HSCs of PD patients for many years, since HSCs are usually in G0 phase, and then be transmitted to more differentiated cells. This model further suggests that a mature complete virus that affects cell function could only act pathogenetically in the osteoclast lineage, which offers a permissive milieu.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1528-1532
Number of pages5
JournalExperimental Hematology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1999


  • Measles virus
  • Osteoclast
  • Paget's disease of bone


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