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A bioassay that measured the interleukin (IL)-12-induced production of interferon (IFN)-γ from mouse splenocytes was used to identify a soluble factor in the supernatants of vaccinia virus (VV)-infected cells that inhibited the production of IFN-γ. This soluble factor was expressed by 14 out of 16 VV strains including the Western Reserve (WR) strain, but strains Copenhagen and Tashkent and a mutant of strain WR called 6/2 lacked this activity. The gene encoding this activity was identified as C12L by transferring DNA present in VV WR but missing in VV WR 6/2 into VV Copenhagen and testing for expression of the soluble factor. The C12L protein shows amino acid similarity to IL-18 binding proteins that are encoded by poxviruses, mice and humans, and C12L protein produced from VV or baculovirus inhibited the biological activity of mouse IL-18in vitro. Thus the inhibition of IL-12-induced IFN-γ production was due to indirect effects of C12L on IL-18, illustrating the synergistic action of these pro-inflammatory cytokines. To study the role of the C12L protein in the virus life-cycle, we constructed a deletion mutant lacking the C12L gene and a revertant virus in which the gene was reinserted into the deletion mutant.In vitrothe replication and plaque size of these viruses were indistinguishable. However, infection of BALB/c mice by the intranasal route showed that the deletion mutant was attenuated and induced lower weight loss and signs of illness compared to controls.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of General Virology


Microbiology Society

Publication Date





2833 - 2844