Viral apoptotic mimicry

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2015 Aug;13(8):461-9. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro3469. Epub 2015 Jun 8.


As opportunistic pathogens, viruses have evolved many elegant strategies to manipulate host cells for infectious entry and replication. Viral apoptotic mimicry, defined by the exposure of phosphatidylserine - a marker for apoptosis - on the pathogen surface, is emerging as a common theme used by enveloped viruses to promote infection. Focusing on the four best described examples (vaccinia virus, dengue virus, Ebola virus and pseudotyped lentivirus), we summarize our current understanding of apoptotic mimicry as a mechanism for virus entry, binding and immune evasion. We also describe recent examples of non-enveloped viruses that use this mimicry strategy, and discuss future directions and how viral apoptotic mimicry could be targeted therapeutically.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immune Evasion
  • Molecular Mimicry*
  • Phagocytes / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylserines / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / physiology
  • Virus Internalization*
  • Viruses / immunology
  • Viruses / metabolism*


  • Phosphatidylserines
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • phosphatidylserine receptor