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Exp Physiol. 2005 Jan;90(1):45-52. Epub 2004 Nov 12.

Alphaviral cytotoxicity and its implication in vector development.

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Institute of Molecular Medicine and Cell Research, Albert Ludwigs University, Stephan-Meier Strasse 17, D-79106 Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany.


A great variety of viruses have been engineered to serve as expression vectors. Among them, the alphaviruses Semliki Forest virus and Sindbis virus represent promising tools for heterologous gene expression in a wide variety of host cells. Several applications have already been described in neurobiological studies, in gene therapy, for vaccine development and in cancer therapy. Both viruses trigger stress pathways in the cells they infect, sometimes culminating in the death of the host. This inherent property is either an advantage or a drawback, depending on the type of application. This review covers the development and applications of alphavirus vectors and, as our work has been mainly with Semliki Forest virus, we have focused on this virus with special emphasis on how the understanding of Semliki Forest virus cytotoxicity enables it to be manipulated and used.

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