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Microbes Infect. 2003 Sep;5(11):1049-56.

Variola virus immune evasion proteins.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 220 John Morgan Building, 3620 Hamilton Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Variola virus, the causative agent of smallpox, encodes approximately 200 proteins. Over 80 of these proteins are located in the terminal regions of the genome, where proteins associated with host immune evasion are encoded. To date, only two variola proteins have been characterized. Both are located in the terminal regions and demonstrate immunoregulatory functions. One protein, the smallpox inhibitor of complement enzymes (SPICE), is homologous to a vaccinia virus virulence factor, the vaccinia virus complement-control protein (VCP), which has been found experimentally to be expressed early in the course of vaccinia infection. Both SPICE and VCP are similar in structure and function to the family of mammalian complement regulatory proteins, which function to prevent inadvertent injury to adjacent cells and tissues during complement activation. The second variola protein is the variola virus high-affinity secreted chemokine-binding protein type II (CKBP-II, CBP-II, vCCI), which binds CC-chemokine receptors. The vaccinia homologue of CKBP-II is secreted both early and late in infection. CKBP-II proteins are highly conserved among orthopoxviruses, sharing approximately 85% homology, but are absent in eukaryotes. This characteristic sets it apart from other known virulence factors in orthopoxviruses, which share sequence homology with known mammalian immune regulatory gene products. Future studies of additional variola proteins may help illuminate factors associated with its virulence, pathogenesis and strict human tropism. In addition, these studies may also assist in the development of targeted therapies for the treatment of both smallpox and human immune-related diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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