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J Virol. 2009 Sep;83(18):9273-82. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00768-09. Epub 2009 Jul 15.

Simian varicella virus induces apoptosis in monkey kidney cells by the intrinsic pathway and involves downregulation of bcl-2 expression.

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  • 1Departments of Medicine, University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, Aurora, 80045, USA.


Simian varicella virus (SVV) causes varicella in primates, becomes latent in ganglionic neurons, and reactivates to produce zoster. SVV produces a cytopathic effect in monkey kidney cells in tissue culture. To study the mechanism by which SVV-infected cells die, we examined markers of apoptosis 24 to 64 h postinfection (hpi). Western blot analysis of virus-infected cell lysates revealed a significant increase in the levels of the cleaved active form of caspase-3, accompanied by a parallel increase in caspase-3 activity at 40 to 64 hpi. Caspase-9, a marker for the intrinsic pathway, was activated significantly in SVV-infected cells at all time points, whereas trace levels of the active form of caspase-8, an extrinsic pathway marker, was detected only at 64 hpi. Bcl-2 expression at the mRNA and protein levels was decreased by 50 to 70% throughout the course of virus infection. Release of cytochrome c, an activator of caspase-9, from mitochondria into the cytoplasm was increased by 200% at 64 hpi. Analysis of Vero cells infected with SVV expressing green fluorescent protein (SVV-GFP) at 64 hpi revealed colocalization of the active forms of caspase-3 and caspase-9 and terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase-mediated dUTP-biotin nick end labeling (TUNEL) staining with GFP. A significant decrease in the bcl-2 mRNA levels along with an abundance of mRNA specific for SVV genes 63, 40, and 21 was seen in the fraction of Vero cells that were infected with SVV-GFP. Together, these findings indicate that SVV induces apoptosis in cultured Vero cells through the intrinsic pathway in which Bcl-2 is downregulated.

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