Modification of host-cell ionic content is a significant issue for viruses, as several viral proteins displaying ion channel activity, named viroporins, have been identified. Viroporins interact with different cellular membranes and self-assemble forming ion conductive pores. In general, these channels display mild ion selectivity, and, eventually, membrane lipids play key structural and functional roles in the pore. Viroporins stimulate virus production through different mechanisms, and ion channel conductivity has been proved particularly relevant in several cases. Key stages of the viral cycle such as virus uncoating, transport and maturation are ion-influenced processes in many viral species. Besides boosting virus propagation, viroporins have also been associated with pathogenesis. Linking pathogenesis either to the ion conductivity or to other functions of viroporins has been elusive for a long time. This article summarizes novel pathways leading to disease stimulated by viroporin ion conduction, such as inflammasome driven immunopathology.
Keywords: inflammasome; ion channel; pathogenesis; protein-lipid pore; replication; viroporins; virus.