Interruption of cytokine networks by poxviruses: lessons from myxoma virus
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Myxoma virus is an infectious poxvirus pathogen that induces a virulent systemic disease called myxomatosis in European rabbits. The disease is rapidly and uniformly fatal to susceptible rabbits and is characterized by generalized dysfunction of cellular immunity and multiple interruptions of the host cytokine network. A number of virus genes are classified as virulence factors because virus constructs bearing targeted gene disruptions induce attenuated disease symptoms. Many of these genes encode proteins that interact directly with effector elements of the host immune system. Included among these immunosubversive viral proteins are secreted mimics of host ligands or regulators (virokines) and homologues of cellular cytokine receptors (viroceptors). Five examples of these immune modulator proteins encoded by myxoma virus are reviewed: (1) myxoma growth factor, a member of the epidermal growth factor ligand superfamily; (2) SERP-1, a secreted serine proteinase inhibitor; (3) M11L, a receptor-like surface protein; (4) T2, a tumor necrosis factor receptor homologue; and (5) T7, an interferon-gamma receptor homologue. The origin of viral strategies designed to subvert immune regulation by host cytokines is considered in the context of the biology of myxoma virus within immunocompetent hosts.
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