Genomic and ultrastructural analysis of monkeypox virus in skin lesions and in human/animal infected cells reveals further morphofunctional insights into viral pathogenicity

J Med Virol. 2023 Jun;95(6):e28878. doi: 10.1002/jmv.28878.


Monkeypox (MPOX) is a zoonotic disease that affects humans and other primates, resulting in a smallpox-like illness. It is caused by monkeypox virus (MPXV), which belongs to the Poxviridae family. Clinically manifested by a range of cutaneous and systemic findings, as well as variable disease severity phenotypes based on the genetic makeup of the virus, the cutaneous niche and respiratory mucosa are the epicenters of MPXV pathogenicity. Herein, we describe the ultrastructural features of MPXV infection in both human cultured cells and cutaneous clinical specimens collected during the 2022-2023 MPOX outbreak in New York City that were revealed through electron microscopy. We observed typical enveloped virions with brick-shaped morphologies that contained surface protrusions, consistent with the classic ultrastructural features of MPXV. In addition, we describe morpho-functional evidence that point to roles of distinct cellular organelles in viral assembly during clinical MPXV infection. Interestingly, in skin lesions, we found abundant melanosomes near viral assembly sites, particularly in the vicinity of mature virions, which provides further insight into virus-host interactions at the subcellular level that contribute to MPXV pathogenesis. These findings not only highlight the importance of electron microscopic studies for further investigation of this emerging pathogen but also in characterizing MPXV pathogenesis during human infection.

Keywords: MPOX disease; immunocompromised; monkeypox virus; secondary; solid organ transplant.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Monkeypox virus / genetics
  • Monkeypox*
  • Primates
  • Skin Diseases*
  • Virulence