Viral escape mechanisms--escapology taught by viruses

Int J Exp Pathol. 2001 Oct;82(5):269-86. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2613.2001.00204.x.


Viruses have 'studied' immunology over millions of years of coevolution with their hosts. During this ongoing education they have developed countless mechanisms to escape from the host's immune system. To illustrate the most common strategies of viral immune escape we have focused on two murine models of persistent infection, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) and murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV). LCMV is a fast replicating small RNA virus with a genome prone to mutations. Therefore, LCMV escapes from the immune system mainly by two strategies: 'speed' and 'shape change'. At the opposite extreme, MCMV is a large, complex DNA virus with a more rigid genome and thus the strategies used by LCMV are no option. However, MCMV has the coding capacity for additional genes which interfere specifically with the immune response of the host. These escape strategies have been described as 'camouflage' and 'sabotage'. Using these simple concepts we describe the spectrum of viral escapology, giving credit not only to the researchers who uncovered this fascinating area of immunology but also to the viruses themselves, who still have a few lessons to teach.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology
  • CD4 Antigens / immunology
  • CD8 Antigens / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Muromegalovirus / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Antigens, Viral
  • CD4 Antigens
  • CD8 Antigens