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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 May 23;97(11):6097-101.

Specific phenotypic restoration of an attenuated virus by knockout of a host resistance gene.

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  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.


To produce disease, viruses must enter the host, multiply locally in host tissues, spread from the site of entry, and overcome or evade host immune responses. At each stage in this infectious process, specific microbial and host genes determine the ultimate virulence of the virus. Genetic approaches have identified many viral genes that play critical roles in virulence and are presumed to target specific components of the host innate and acquired immune response. However, formal proof that a virulence gene targets a specific protein in a host pathway in vivo has not been obtained. Based on cell culture studies, it has been proposed that the herpes simplex virus type 1 gene ICP34.5 (ICP, infected cell protein) enhances neurovirulence by negating antiviral functions of the IFN-inducible double-stranded RNA-dependent protein kinase R or PKR [Chou, J., Chen, J.J., Gross, M. & Roizman, B. (1995) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 92, 10516-10520]. Herein, we show that a virus that has been attenuated by deletion of ICP34.5 exhibits wild-type replication and virulence in a host from which the PKR gene has been deleted. We show that restoration of virulence is specific to ICP34.5 and PKR by using additional host and viral mutants. The use of recombinant viruses to infect animals with null mutations in host defense genes provides a formal genetic test for identifying in vivo mechanisms and targets of microbial virulence genes.

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