Natalie Pica

Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Manhattan, NY, United States

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Publications (19)101.99 Total impact

  • Natalie Pica, Nicole M Bouvier
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    ABSTRACT: Respiratory viruses are important pediatric pathogens with pronounced seasonal patterns of circulation. Various hypotheses have been put forth to explain the seasonality of these infections, many involving environmental factors. This review summarizes the effect of temperature on the epidemicity of respiratory viruses, with an emphasis on epidemiological findings from large-scale metanalyses, laboratory-derived data using animal models, and possible mechanisms to account for viral seasonality.
    The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal 12/2013; · 3.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Current influenza virus vaccine strategies stimulate immune responses towards the globular head domain of the hemagglutinin protein in order to inhibit key steps of the virus lifecycle. Because this domain is highly variable across strains, new vaccine formulations are required in most years. Here we demonstrate a novel vaccine strategy that generates immunity to the highly conserved stalk domain, using chimeric hemagglutinin constructs that express unique head and stalk combinations. By repeatedly immunizing with constructs that express the same stalk but an irrelevant head, we specifically stimulate a stalk-directed response that provides broad-based heterologous and heterosubtypic immunity in mice. Notably, our vaccination scheme provides a universal vaccine approach that protects against challenge with an H5 subtyped virus. Furthermore, through in vivo studies using passively transferred antibodies or depletion of CD8+ T cells, we demonstrate the critical role that humoral mechanisms of immunity play in the protection observed. The present data suggest that a vaccine strategy based on the stalk domain of the hemagglutinin protein could be used in humans to broadly protect against a variety of influenza virus subtypes.
    Journal of Virology 04/2013; · 5.08 Impact Factor
  • Natalie Pica, Peter Palese
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    ABSTRACT: Current influenza virus vaccines are annually reformulated to elicit protection by generating an immune response toward the virus strains that are predicted to circulate in the upcoming influenza season. These vaccines provide limited protection in cases of antigenic mismatch, when the vaccine and the circulating viral strains differ. The emergence of unexpected pandemic viruses presents an additional challenge to vaccine production. To increase influenza virus preparedness, much work has been dedicated to the development of a universal vaccine. Focusing on regions of viral proteins that are highly conserved across virus subtypes, vaccine strategies involving the matrix 2 protein, stalk domain of the hemagglutinin, and multivalent approaches have provided broad-based protection in animal models and show much promise. This review summarizes the most encouraging advances in the field with a focus on novel vaccine designs that have yielded promising preclinical and clinical data.
    Annual review of medicine 01/2013; 64:189-202. · 9.94 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Immunological changes associated with age contribute to the high rates of influenza virus morbidity and mortality in the elderly. Compounding this problem, aged individuals do not respond to vaccination as well as younger, healthy adults. Efforts to increase protection to this demographic group are of utmost importance, as the proportion of the population above the age of 65 is projected to increase in the coming decade. Using a live influenza virus with a truncated nonstructural protein 1 (NS1), we are able to stimulate cellular and humoral immune responses of aged mice comparable to levels seen in young mice. Impressively, a single vaccination provided protection following stringent lethal challenge in aged mice.
    Journal of Virology 07/2012; 86(19):10293-301. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Previously, it has been shown that infection in humans with the pandemic swine influenza virus induces antibodies with specificity to the stalk domain of the viral hemagglutinin. Following the generation of these data, we sought to recapitulate these findings in the mouse model by sequential influenza virus infection. Mice that were inoculated with a seasonal influenza H1N1 virus followed by infection with a pandemic H1N1 strain produced higher antihemagglutinin stalk antibody titers than mice sequentially infected with drifted seasonal strains. In order to achieve antibody titers of comparable magnitude using sequential infection, mice had to be infected with 100- to 1,000-fold more of the drifted seasonal virus. The antistalk antibodies produced by these infections were influenza virus neutralizing, which illustrates the utility of the mouse model in which to study this interaction between virus and host.
    Journal of Virology 07/2012; 86(19):10302-7. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    Nicole M Bouvier, Saad Rahmat, Natalie Pica
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    ABSTRACT: Between 2007 and 2009, oseltamivir resistance developed among seasonal influenza A/H1N1 (sH1N1) virus isolates at an exponential rate, without a corresponding increase in oseltamivir usage. We hypothesized that the oseltamivir-resistant neuraminidase (NA), in addition to being relatively insusceptible to the antiviral effect of oseltamivir, might confer an additional fitness advantage on these viruses by enhancing their transmission efficiency among humans. Here we demonstrate that an oseltamivir-resistant clinical isolate, an A/Brisbane/59/2007(H1N1)-like virus isolated in New York State in 2008, transmits more efficiently among guinea pigs than does a highly similar, contemporaneous oseltamivir-sensitive isolate. With reverse genetics reassortants and point mutants of the two clinical isolates, we further show that expression of the oseltamivir-resistant NA in the context of viral proteins from the oseltamivir-sensitive virus (a 7:1 reassortant) is sufficient to enhance transmissibility. In the guinea pig model, the NA is the critical determinant of transmission efficiency between oseltamivir-sensitive and -resistant Brisbane/59-like sH1N1 viruses, independent of concurrent drift mutations that occurred in other gene products. Our data suggest that the oseltamivir-resistant NA (specifically, one or both of the companion mutations, H275Y and D354G) may have allowed resistant Brisbane/59-like viruses to outtransmit sensitive isolates. These data provide in vivo evidence of an evolutionary mechanism that would explain the rapidity with which oseltamivir resistance achieved fixation among sH1N1 isolates in the human reservoir.
    Journal of Virology 04/2012; 86(13):7268-79. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The influenza virus hemagglutinin molecule possesses a globular head domain that mediates receptor binding and a stalk domain at the membrane-proximal region. We generated functional influenza viruses expressing chimeric hemagglutinins encompassing a variety of globular head and stalk combinations, not only from different hemagglutinin subtypes but also from different hemagglutinin phylogenetic groups. These chimeric recombinant viruses possess growth properties similar to those of wild-type influenza viruses and can be used as reagents to measure domain-specific antibodies in virological and immunological assays.
    Journal of Virology 03/2012; 86(10):5774-81. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Influenza A viruses encoding an altered viral NS1 protein have emerged as promising live attenuated vaccine platforms. A carboxy-terminal truncation in the NS1 protein compromises its interferon antagonism activity, making these viruses attenuated in the host yet still able to induce protection from challenge with wild-type viruses. However, specific viral protein expression by NS1-truncated viruses is known to be decreased in infected cells. In this report, we show that recombinant H5N1 and H1N1 influenza viruses encoding a truncated NS1 protein expressed lower levels of hemagglutinin (HA) protein in infected cells than did wild-type viruses. This reduction in HA protein expression correlated with a reduction in HA mRNA levels in infected cells. NS1 truncation affected the expression of HA protein but not that of the nucleoprotein (NP). This segment specificity was mapped to the terminal sequences of their specific viral RNAs. Since the HA protein is the major immunogenic component in influenza virus vaccines, we sought to restore its expression levels in NS1-truncated viruses in order to improve their vaccine efficacy. For this purpose, we generated an NS1-truncated recombinant influenza A/Puerto Rico/8/34 (rPR8) virus carrying the G3A C8U "superpromoter" mutations in the HA genomic RNA segment. This strategy retained the attenuation properties of the recombinant virus but enhanced the expression level of HA protein in infected cells. Finally, mice immunized with rPR8 viruses encoding a truncated NS1 protein and carrying the G3A C8U mutations in the HA segment demonstrated enhanced protection from wild-type virus challenge over that for mice vaccinated with an rPR8 virus encoding the truncated NS1 protein alone.
    Journal of Virology 03/2012; 86(10):5782-90. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: After the emergence of pandemic influenza viruses in 1957, 1968, and 2009, existing seasonal viruses were observed to be replaced in the human population by the novel pandemic strains. We have previously hypothesized that the replacement of seasonal strains was mediated, in part, by a population-scale boost in antibodies specific for conserved regions of the hemagglutinin stalk and the viral neuraminidase. Numerous recent studies have shown the role of stalk-specific antibodies in neutralization of influenza viruses; the finding that stalk antibodies can effectively neutralize virus alters the existing dogma that influenza virus neutralization is mediated solely by antibodies that react with the globular head of the viral hemagglutinin. The present study explores the possibility that stalk-specific antibodies were boosted by infection with the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus and that those antibodies could have contributed to the disappearance of existing seasonal H1N1 influenza virus strains. To study stalk-specific antibodies, we have developed chimeric hemagglutinin constructs that enable the measurement of antibodies that bind the hemagglutinin protein and neutralize virus but do not have hemagglutination inhibition activity. Using these chimeric hemagglutinin reagents, we show that infection with the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus elicited a boost in titer of virus-neutralizing antibodies directed against the hemagglutinin stalk. In addition, we describe assays that can be used to measure influenza virus-neutralizing antibodies that are not detected in the traditional hemagglutination inhibition assay.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2012; 109(7):2573-8. · 9.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Epidemic influenza is typically caused by infection with viruses of the A and B types and can result in substantial morbidity and mortality during a given season. Here we demonstrate that influenza B viruses can replicate in the upper respiratory tract of the guinea pig and that viruses of the two main lineages can be transmitted with 100% efficiency between inoculated and naïve animals in both contact and noncontact models. Our results also indicate that, like in the case for influenza A virus, transmission of influenza B viruses is enhanced at colder temperatures, providing an explanation for the seasonality of influenza epidemics in temperate climates. We therefore present, for the first time, a small animal model with which to study the underlying mechanisms of influenza B virus transmission.
    Journal of Virology 02/2012; 86(8):4279-87. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    Natalie Pica, Nicole M Bouvier
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    ABSTRACT: Many viruses are capable of infecting the human respiratory tract to cause disease. These viruses display various transmission patterns among humans; however, they all share the ability to transmit from person to person, and their human transmissibility is influenced by the environment in which pathogen and host meet. This review aims to summarize recent and significant observations regarding the impact of environmental factors such as weather and climate, humidity, temperature, and airflow on the transmission of human respiratory viruses. Where possible, knowledge gaps that require further scientific study will be identified.
    Current opinion in virology. 02/2012; 2(1):90-5.
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    ABSTRACT: Recently, a new class of broadly neutralizing anti-influenza virus antibodies that target the stalk domain of the viral hemagglutinin was discovered. As such, induction, isolation, characterization, and quantification of these novel antibodies has become an area of intense research and great interest. Since most of these antibodies bind to conformational epitopes, the structural integrity of hemagglutinin substrates for the detection and quantification of these antibodies is of high importance. Here we evaluate the binding of these antibodies to soluble, secreted hemagglutinins with or without a carboxy-terminal trimerization domain based on the natural trimerization domain of T4 phage fibritin. The lack of such a domain completely abolishes binding to group 1 hemagglutinins and also affects binding to group 2 hemagglutinins. Additionally, the presence of a trimerization domain positively influences soluble hemagglutinin stability during expression and purification. Our findings suggest that a carboxy-terminal trimerization domain is a necessary requirement for the structural integrity of stalk epitopes on recombinant soluble influenza virus hemagglutinin.
    PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(8):e43603. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We assessed the relative susceptibilities to disease of the DBA.2 and C57BL/6 mouse models upon infection with a range of influenza A and B viruses. DBA.2 mice were more susceptible to disease upon inoculation with human H1N1 influenza A virus strains, several swine influenza viruses, and influenza B viruses but were not overtly susceptible to infection with human seasonal H3N2 strains. Hemagglutination inhibition and immunoglobulin isotype profiling indicated that DBA.2 and C57BL/6 mice generate comparable humoral responses upon equivalent 50% mouse lethal dose (MLD(50)) challenges with influenza virus. Our data demonstrate the utility of DBA.2 mice for the elucidation of influenza virus pathogenicity determinants and the testing of influenza vaccines.
    Journal of Virology 09/2011; 85(23):12825-9. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A remarkable feature of the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus is its efficient transmissibility in humans compared to that of precursor strains from the triple-reassortant swine influenza virus lineage, which cause only sporadic infections in humans. The viral components essential for this phenotype have not been fully elucidated. In this study, we aimed to determine the viral factors critical for aerosol transmission of the 2009 pandemic virus. Single or multiple segment reassortments were made between the pandemic A/California/04/09 (H1N1) (Cal/09) virus and another H1N1 strain, A/Puerto Rico/8/34 (H1N1) (PR8). These viruses were then tested in the guinea pig model to understand which segment of Cal/09 virus conferred transmissibility to the poorly transmissible PR8 virus. We confirmed our findings by generating recombinant A/swine/Texas/1998 (H3N2) (sw/Tx/98) virus, a representative triple-reassortant swine virus, containing segments of the Cal/09 virus. The data showed that the M segment of the Cal/09 virus promoted aerosol transmissibility to recombinant viruses with PR8 and sw/Tx/98 virus backgrounds, suggesting that the M segment is a critical factor supporting the transmission of the 2009 pandemic virus.
    Journal of Virology 08/2011; 85(21):11235-41. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Current influenza virus vaccines protect mostly against homologous virus strains; thus, regular immunization with updated vaccine formulations is necessary to guard against the virus' hallmark remodeling of regions that mediate neutralization. Development of a broadly protective influenza vaccine would mark a significant advance in human infectious diseases research. Antibodies with broad neutralizing activity (nAbs) against multiple influenza virus strains or subtypes have been reported to bind the stalk of the viral hemagglutinin, suggesting that a vaccine based on this region could elicit a broadly protective immune response. Here we describe a hemagglutinin subunit 2 protein (HA2)-based synthetic peptide vaccine that provides protection in mice against influenza viruses of the structurally divergent subtypes H3N2, H1N1, and H5N1. The immunogen is based on the binding site of the recently described nAb 12D1, which neutralizes H3 subtype viruses, demonstrates protective activity in vivo, and, in contrast to a majority of described nAbs, appears to bind to residues within a single α-helical portion of the HA2 protein. Our data further demonstrate that the specific design of our immunogen is integral in the induction of broadly active anti-hemagglutinin antibodies. These results provide proof of concept for an HA2-based influenza vaccine that could diminish the threat of pandemic influenza disease and generally reduce the significance of influenza viruses as human pathogens.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 10/2010; 107(44):18979-84. · 9.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: As targets of adaptive immunity, influenza viruses are characterized by the fluidity with which they respond to the selective pressure applied by neutralizing antibodies. This mutability of structural determinants of protective immunity is the obstacle in developing universal influenza vaccines. Towards the development of such vaccines and other immune therapies, our studies are designed to identify regions of influenza viruses that are conserved and that mediate virus neutralization. We have specifically focused on viruses of the H3N2 subtype, which have persisted as a principal source of influenza-related morbidity and mortality in humans since the pandemic of 1968. Three monoclonal antibodies have been identified that are broadly-neutralizing against H3 influenza viruses spanning 40 years. The antibodies react with the hemagglutinin glycoprotein and appear to bind in regions that are refractory to the structural variation required for viral escape from neutralization. The antibodies demonstrate therapeutic efficacy in mice against H3N2 virus infection and have potential for use in the treatment of human influenza disease. By mapping the binding region of one antibody, 12D1, we have identified a continuous region of the hemagglutinin that may act as an immunogen to elicit broadly protective immunity to H3 viruses. The anti-H3 monoclonal antibodies were identified after immunization of mice with the hemagglutinin of four different viruses (A/Hong Kong/1/1968, A/Alabama/1/1981, A/Beijing/47/1992, A/Wyoming/3/2003). This immunization schedule was designed to boost B cells specific for conserved regions of the hemagglutinin from distinct antigenic clusters. Importantly, our antibodies are of naturally occurring specificity rather than selected from cloned libraries, demonstrating that broad-spectrum humoral immunity to influenza viruses can be elicited in vivo.
    PLoS Pathogens 02/2010; 6(2):e1000796. · 8.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: There is a substantial need to develop better influenza virus vaccines that can protect populations that are not adequately protected by the currently licensed vaccines. While live attenuated influenza virus vaccines induce superior immune responses compared to inactivated vaccines, the manufacturing process of both types of influenza virus vaccines is time consuming and may not be adequate during a pandemic. Adjuvants would be particularly useful if they could enhance the immune response to live attenuated influenza virus vaccines so that the amount of vaccine needed for a protective dose could be reduced. The glycolipid, alpha-galactosylceramide (alpha-GalCer), has recently been shown to have adjuvant activity for both inactivated and replicating recombinant vaccines. The goal of these experiments was to determine whether a derivative of alpha-GalCer, alpha-C-galactosylceramide (alpha-C-GalCer) can enhance the immune response elicited by a live attenuated influenza virus vaccine containing an NS1 protein truncation and reduce the amount of vaccine required to provide protection after challenge. Our results indicated that the adjuvant reduced both morbidity and mortality in BALB/c mice after challenge with wild type influenza virus. The adjuvant also increased the amount of influenza virus specific total IgG, IgG1, and IgG2a antibodies as well as IFN-gamma secreting CD8(+) T cells. By using knockout mice that are not able to generate NKT cells, we were able to demonstrate that the mechanism of adjuvant activity is dependent on NKT cells. Thus, our data indicate that stimulators of NKT cells represent a new avenue of adjuvants to pursue for live attenuated virus vaccines.
    Vaccine 07/2009; 27(28):3766-74. · 3.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Missense mutations in the PTPN11 gene, which encodes the protein tyrosine phosphatase SHP-2, cause clinically similar but distinctive disorders, LEOPARD (LS) and Noonan (NS) syndromes. The LS is an autosomal dominant disorder with pleomorphic developmental abnormalities including lentigines, cardiac defects, short stature and deafness. Biochemical analyses indicated that LS alleles engender loss-of-function (LOF) effects, while NS mutations result in gain-of-function (GOF). These biochemical findings lead to an enigma that how PTPN11 mutations with opposite effects on function result in disorders that are so similar. To study the developmental effects of the commonest LS PTPN11 alleles (Y279C and T468M), we generated LS transgenic fruitflies using corkscrew (csw), the Drosophila orthologue of PTPN11. Ubiquitous expression of the LS csw mutant alleles resulted in ectopic wing veins and, for the Y279C allele, rough eyes with increased R7 photoreceptor numbers. These were GOF phenotypes mediated by increased RAS/MAPK signaling and requiring the LS mutant's residual phosphatase activity. Our findings provide the first evidence that LS mutant alleles have GOF developmental effects despite reduced phosphatase activity, providing a rationale for how PTPN11 mutations with GOF and LOF produce similar but distinctive syndromes.
    Human Molecular Genetics 11/2008; 18(1):193-201. · 7.69 Impact Factor
  • Natalie Pica, Peter Palese, John Steel
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    ABSTRACT: Influenza virus causes significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Vaccination, usually involving the inactivated type of vaccine, is the primary mechanism of influenza virus prevention. Live attenuated influenza viruses (LAIV), however, are also available for the prevention of disease. These vaccines have been shown to stimulate a robust cellular response, induce IgA and IgG antibodies, and can provide heterosubtypic protection. Cold-adaptation and temperature sensitivity are two mechanisms of influenza virus attenuation, yielding viruses that are both safe and immunogenic. At present, novel attenuation strategies, including the manipulation of viral gene sequences and proteins, are being developed in the hopes of providing new LAIV vaccines. One promising strategy involves the truncation of the NS1 protein of influenza virus, limiting the interferon antagonist capabilities of the influenza pathogen. Experimental vaccines that exploit this mode of attenuation have been tested in several animal models; as summarized herein, high efficacy in reducing mortality, morbidity, and transmission of influenza viruses has been observed.