Viral channel-forming proteins comprise a class of viral proteins which, similar to their host companions, are made to alter electrochemical or substrate gradients across lipid membranes. These proteins are active during all stages of the cellular life cycle of viruses. An increasing number of proteins are identified as channel proteins, but the precise role in the viral life cycle is yet unknown for the majority of them. This review presents an overview about these proteins with an emphasis on those with available structural information. A concept is introduced which aligns the transmembrane domains of viral channel proteins with those of host channels and toxins to give insights into the mechanism of function of the viral proteins from potential sequence identities. A summary of to date investigations on drugs targeting these proteins is given and discussed in respect of their mode of action in vivo.
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