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Vaccinia virus produces four different types of virion from each infected cell called intracellular mature virus (IMV), intracellular enveloped virus (IEV), cell-associated enveloped virus (CEV) and extracellular enveloped virus (EEV). These virions have different abundance, structure, location and roles in the virus life-cycle. Here, the formation and function of these virions are considered with emphasis on the EEV form and its precursors, IEV and CEV. IMV is the most abundant form of virus and is retained in cells until lysis; it is a robust, stable virion and is well suited to transmit infection between hosts. IEV is formed by wrapping of IMV with intracellular membranes, and is an intermediate between IMV and CEV/EEV that enables efficient virus dissemination to the cell surface on microtubules. CEV induces the formation of actin tails that drive CEV particles away from the cell and is important for cell-to-cell spread. Lastly, EEV mediates the long-range dissemination of virus in cell culture and, probably,in vivo. Seven virus-encoded proteins have been identified that are components of IEV, and five of them are present in CEV or EEV. The roles of these proteins in virus morphogenesis and dissemination, and as targets for neutralizing antibody are reviewed. The production of several different virus particles in the VV replication cycle represents a coordinated strategy to exploit cell biology to promote virus spread and to aid virus evasion of antibody and complement.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of General Virology


Microbiology Society

Publication Date





2915 - 2931