Technical knockout: Understanding poxvirus pathogenesis by selectively deleting viral immunomodulatory genes

J. B. Johnston, Grant McFadden

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

61 Scopus citations


The study of viral pathogens genomes as large and complex as poxviruses represents a constant experimental challenge. Advances in recombinant DNA technologies have provided sophisticated methods to produce mutants defective in one or more viral genes, termed knockout (KO) viruses, thereby facilitating research into the impact of specific gene products on viral pathogenesis. Such strategies have rapidly advanced the systematic mining of many poxvirus genomes and enabled researchers to identify and characterize poxvirus genes whose functions represent the culmination of host and pathogen coevolution. Of particular interest are the multiple classes of virus-encoded immunomodulatory proteins that have evolved specifically to allow poxviruses to evade, obstruct or subvert critical elements within the host innate and acquired immune responses. Functional characterization of these viral genes by generating KO viruses and investigating the phenotypic changes that result is an important tool for understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying poxvirus replication and pathogenesis. Moreover, the insights gained have led to new developments in basic and clinical virology, provided a basis for the design of new vaccines and antivirals, and increased the potential application of poxviruses as investigative tools and sources of biotherapeutics for the treatment of human diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)695-705
Number of pages11
JournalCellular Microbiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Virology


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