Orf virus-encoded interleukin-10 stimulates the proliferation of murine mast cells and inhibits cytokine synthesis in murine peritoneal macrophages

Wendy Imlach, Catherine A. McCaughan, Andrew A. Mercer, David Haig, Stephen B. Fleming

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Orf virus (ORFV) is the type species of the parapoxvirus genus and produces cutaneous pustular lesions in sheep, goats and humans. The genome encodes a polypeptide with remarkable homology to interleukin-10 (IL-10), particularly ovine IL-10, and also to IL-10-like proteins encoded by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and equine herpesvirus. IL-10 is a pleiotropic cytokine that can exert either immunostimulatory or immunosuppressive effects on many cell types. We have expressed and purified C-terminal FLAG and His6-tagged versions of ORFV-IL-10 and shown that ORFV-IL-10 costimulates murine mast cells (MC/9) and inhibits tumour necrosis factor-α synthesis in activated mouse peritoneal macrophages. Our results demonstrate that although ORFV-IL-10 is structurally similar to EBV-IL-10 it has evolved a different spectrum of activities. EBV-IL-10 does not stimulate the proliferation of thymocytes or mast cells whereas ORFV-IL-10 has both of these activities. Recent studies show that the critical difference in molecular structure of human IL-10 and EBV-IL-10, which may be the basis of their functional differences, is linked to a single amino acid substitution. Consistent with the activity spectrum reported here for ORFV-IL-10, the viral gene encodes the critical amino acid seen in human IL-10. Although the ORFV-IL-10 gene has clearly undergone significant evolutionary change at the nucleotide level compared with ovine IL-10, it has largely retained the polypeptide structure and functional characteristics of its ovine counterpart, suggesting that mutations of the gene to a potentially more potent immunosuppressive form may compromise the co-existence of host and virus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1049-1058
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of General Virology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

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