Specific phenotypic restoration of an attenuated virus by knockout of a host resistance gene

David A. Leib, Michael A. Machalek, Bryan R.G. Williams, Robert H. Silverman, Herbert W. Virgin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

209 Citations (Scopus)


To produce disease, viruses must enter the host, multiply locally in host tissues, spread from the site of entry, and overcome or evade host immune responses. At each stage in this infectious process, specific microbial and host genes determine the ultimate virulence of the virus. Genetic approaches have identified many viral genes that play critical roles in virulence and are presumed to target specific components of the host innate and acquired immune response. However, formal proof that a virulence gene targets a specific protein in a host pathway in vivo has not been obtained. Based on cell culture studies, it has been proposed that the herpes simplex virus type 1 gene ICP34.5 (ICP, infected cell protein) enhances neurovirulence by negating antiviral functions of the IFN-inducible double- stranded RNA-dependent protein kinase R or PKR [Chou, J., Chen, J.J., Gross, M. and Roizman, B. (1995) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 92, 10516-10520]. Herein, we show that a virus that has been attenuated by deletion of ICP34.5 exhibits wild-type replication and virulence in a host from which the PKR gene has been deleted. We show that restoration of virulence is specific to ICP34.5 and PKR by using additional host and viral mutants. The use of recombinant viruses to infect animals with null mutations in host defense genes provides a formal genetic test for identifying in vivo mechanisms and targets of microbial virulence genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6097-6101
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2000
Externally publishedYes

Cite this