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Arch Virol Suppl. 2001;(17):81-9.

The role of varicella zoster virus immediate-early proteins in latency and their potential use as components of vaccines.

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Department of Microbiology, Fundamental Virology, Liège University, Sart Tilman-Liège, Belgium.


Varicella zoster virus immediate-early (IE) proteins are intracellular regulators of viral gene expression. Some of them (IE62 and IE63) are found in large amounts in infected cells but are also components of the virion tegument. Several IE and early genes are transcribed during latency, while late genes are not. Recently, we demonstrated the presence of protein IE 63 in dorsal root ganglia of persistently infected rats as well as in normal human ganglia; other IE proteins have been found since in human ganglia. Cell-mediated immunity (CMI) to IE 62 has been evidenced. We found both humoral immunity and CMI to IE 63 in immune adults. In elderly zoster-free individuals, CMI to IE 63 remained high. The differences in the CMI to IE 63 among young adults, elderly people and immunocompromized patients have to be analyzed according to their status relative to zoster, to determine whether the decrease in CMI, particularly to IE proteins, could be responsible for viral reactivation and for the onset of shingles. Hopefully, the waning of the CMI to VZV IE 63 and perhaps to other IE proteins could become a predictive marker for herpes zoster and reimmunization, not only with the vaccine strain, but also with purified IE proteins could help prevent zoster at old age.

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