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Gene expression profiling of monkeypox virus-infected cells reveals novel interfaces for host-virus interactions

Abdulnaser Alkhalil1*, Rasha Hammamieh2, Justin Hardick1, Mohamed Ait Ichou1, Marti Jett2 and Sofi Ibrahim1

Author Affiliations

1 United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Fort Detrick, Maryland 21702, USA

2 Division of Pathology, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Silver Spring, MD, 20910, USA

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Virology Journal 2010, 7:173  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-7-173

Published: 28 July 2010


Monkeypox virus (MPV) is a zoonotic Orthopoxvirus and a potential biothreat agent that causes human disease with varying morbidity and mortality. Members of the Orthopoxvirus genus have been shown to suppress antiviral cell defenses, exploit host cell machinery, and delay infection-induced cell death. However, a comprehensive study of all host genes and virus-targeted host networks during infection is lacking. To better understand viral strategies adopted in manipulating routine host biology on global scale, we investigated the effect of MPV infection on Macaca mulatta kidney epithelial cells (MK2) using GeneChip rhesus macaque genome microarrays. Functional analysis of genes differentially expressed at 3 and 7 hours post infection showed distinctive regulation of canonical pathways and networks. While the majority of modulated histone-encoding genes exhibited sharp copy number increases, many of its transcription regulators were substantially suppressed; suggesting involvement of unknown viral factors in host histone expression. In agreement with known viral dependence on actin in motility, egress, and infection of adjacent cells, our results showed extensive regulation of genes usually involved in controlling actin expression dynamics. Similarly, a substantial ratio of genes contributing to cell cycle checkpoints exhibited concerted regulation that favors cell cycle progression in G1, S, G2 phases, but arrest cells in G2 phase and inhibits entry into mitosis. Moreover, the data showed that large number of infection-regulated genes is involved in molecular mechanisms characteristic of cancer canonical pathways. Interestingly, ten ion channels and transporters showed progressive suppression during the course of infection. Although the outcome of this unusual channel expression on cell osmotic homeostasis remains unknown, instability of cell osmotic balance and membrane potential has been implicated in intracellular pathogens egress. Our results highlight the role of histones, actin, cell cycle regulators, and ion channels in MPV infection, and propose these host functions as attractive research focal points in identifying novel drug intervention sites.