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The ORF47 and ORF66 putative protein kinases of varicella-zoster virus determine tropism for human T cells and skin in the SCID-hu mouse

  • Jennifer F. Moffat
  • Leigh Zerboni
  • Marvin H. Sommer
  • Thomas C. Heineman
  • Jeffrey I. Cohen
  • Hideto Kaneshima
  • Ann M. Arvin
The National Academy of Sciences
Publication Date
Sep 29, 1998
  • Biology


The varicella-zoster virus (VZV) genes ORF47 and ORF66 are predicted to encode serine/threonine protein kinases, which are homologs of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) UL13, and US3. When mutants were constructed by inserting stop codons into ORF47 and ORF66, the recombinants ROka47S and ROka66S, as well as intact ROka replicated in tissue culture. In contrast, inoculation of human thymus/liver or skin implants in SCID-hu mice showed that ORF47 protein was required for viral growth in human T cells and skin. Eliminating ORF66 expression inhibited VZV infectivity for T cells partially but did not impair replication in skin compared with ROka. Infectivity for T cells and skin was restored when ROka47S virus was complemented by insertion of ORF47 into a distant, noncoding site. The ORF47 gene product is the first VZV protein identified as necessary for T cell tropism. It also is essential for skin infectivity in vivo, as is glycoprotein C. Expression of ORF66 did not compensate for the absence of the ORF47 protein. The requirement for ORF47 expression in T cells and skin indicates that this gene product, which is dispensable in vitro, has a critical role within differentiated cells that are essential targets for VZV pathogenesis in vivo.

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