Role of cell signaling in poxvirus-mediated foreign gene expression in mammalian cells

Vaccine. 2009 May 14;27(22):2994-3006. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2009.02.103. Epub 2009 Mar 10.


Poxviruses have been extensively used as a promising vehicle to efficiently deliver a variety of antigens in mammalian hosts to induce immune responses against infectious diseases and cancer. Using recombinant vaccinia virus (VV) and canarypox virus (ALVAC) expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) or multiple HIV-1 gene products, we studied the role of four cellular signaling pathways, the phosphoinositide-3-OH kinase (PI3K), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38 MAPK), and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), in poxvirus-mediated foreign gene expression in mammalian cells. In nonpermissive infection (human monocytes), activation of PI3K, ERK, p38 MAPK, and JNK was observed in both VV and ALVAC and blocking PI3K, p38 MAKP, and JNK pathways with their specific inhibitors significantly reduced viral and vaccine antigen gene expression. Whereas, blocking the ERK pathway had no significant effect. Among these cellular signaling pathways studied, PI3K was the most critical pathway involved in gene expression by VV- or ALVAC-infected monocytes. The important role of PI3K in poxvirus-mediated gene expression was further confirmed in mouse epidermal cells stably transfected with dominant-negative PI3K mutant, as poxvirus-mediated targeted gene expression was significantly decreased in these cells when compared with their parental cells. Signaling pathway activation influenced gene expression at the mRNA level rather than virus binding. In permissive mammalian cells, however, VV DNA copies were also significantly decreased in the absence of normal function of the PI3K pathway. Poxvirus-triggered activation of PI3K pathway could be completely abolished by atazanavir, a new generation of antiretroviral protease inhibitors (PIs). As a consequence, ALVAC-mediated EGFP or HIV-1 gag gene expression in infected primary human monocytes was significantly reduced in the presence of atazanavir. These findings implicate that antiretroviral therapy (ART), also known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), may negatively impact the efficacy of live poxvirus vector-based vaccines and should be carefully considered when administering such live vaccines to individuals on ART.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atazanavir Sulfate
  • Canarypox virus / genetics
  • Canarypox virus / immunology*
  • Cell Line
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Gene Expression / drug effects*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / immunology
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • HIV-1 / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Oligopeptides / pharmacology
  • Pyridines / pharmacology
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / immunology
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / genetics
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / immunology
  • Vaccinia virus / genetics
  • Vaccinia virus / immunology*
  • Viral Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Proteins / immunology


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Oligopeptides
  • Pyridines
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Vaccines, Synthetic
  • Viral Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Atazanavir Sulfate