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The vaccinia virus strain Western Reserve (WR) A34R gene encodes a C-type lectin-like glycoprotein, gp22-24, that is present in the outer membrane of extracellular enveloped virus (EEV) with type II membrane topology (S.A. Duncan and G.L. Smith, J. Virol. 66:1610-1621, 1992). Here we that a WR A34R deletion mutant (WR delta A34R) released 19- to 24-fold more EEV from infected cells than did WR virus, but the specific infectivity of the released virions was reduced 5- to 6-fold. Rupture of the WR delta A34R EEV outer envelope by freeze-thawing increased virus infectivity by five- to sixfold, because of the release of infectious intracellular mature virus. All other known EEV-specific proteins are incorporated into WR delta A34R EEV, and thus the loss of gp22-24 is solely responsible for the reduction of EEV specific infectivity. The WR delta A34R virus is highly attenuated in vivo compared with WR or a revertant virus in which the A34R gene was reinserted into WR delta A34R. This attenuation is consistent with the known important role of EEV in virus dissemination and virulence. Vaccinia virus strain International Health Department-J (IHD-J) produces large amounts of EEV and forms comets because of an amino acid substitution within the A34R protein (R. Blasco, R. Sisler, and B. Moss, J. Virol. 67:3319-3325, 1993), but despite this, IHD-J EEV has a specific infectivity equivalent to that of WR EEV. Substitution of the IHD-J A34R gene into the WR strain induced comet formation and greater release of EEV, while coexpression of both genes did not; hence, the WR phenotype is dominant. All orthopoxviruses tested express the A34R protein, but most viruses, including variola virus, have the WR rather than the IHD-J A34R genotype. The A34R protein affects plaque formation, EEV release, EEV infectivity, and virus virulence.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Virology


American Society for Microbiology

Publication Date





272 - 281