Sequence and Functional Analysis of a Homolog of Interleukin-10 Encoded by the Parapoxvirus Orf Virus

  • Stephen B. Fleming
  • David M. Haig
  • Peter Nettleton
  • Hugh W. Reid
  • Catherine A. McCaughan
  • Lyn M. Wise
  • Andrew A. Mercer


Orf virus is a large DNA virus and is the type species of the Parapoxvirus genus of the family Poxviridae. Orf virus infects the epithelium of sheep and goats and is transmissible to humans. Recently we discovered a gene in orf virus that encodes a polypeptide with remarkable homology to mammalian interleukin (IL-10) and viral encoded IL-10s of herpes viruses. The predicted polypeptide sequence shows high levels of amino acid identity to IL-10 of sheep (80%), cattle (75%), humans (67%) and mice (64%), as well as IL-10-like proteins of Epstein-Barr virus (63%) and equine herpes virus (67%). The C-terminal region, comprising two-thirds of the orf virus protein, is identical to ovine IL-10 which suggests that this gene has been captured from its host sheep during the evolution of orf virus. In contrast the N-terminal region shows little homology with cellular IL-10s and in this respect resembles other viral IL-10s. IL-10 is a pleiotrophic cytokine that can exert either immunostimulatory or immunosuppressive effects on many cell types. IL-10 is a potent anti-inflammatory cytokine with inhibitory effects on non-specific immunity in particular macrophage function and Thl effector function. Our studies so far, indicate, that the functional activities of orf virus IL-10 are the same as ovine IL-10. Orf virus IL-10 stimulates mouse thymocyte proliferation and inhibits cytokine synthesis in lipopoly saccharide -activated ovine macrophages, peripheral blood monocytes and keratinocytes. Infection of sheep with an IL-10 deletion mutant of orf virus has shown that interferon-γ levels are higher in tissue infected with the mutant virus than the parent virus. The functional activities of IL-10 and our data on orf virus IL-10 suggest a role in immune evasion.

Key words

orf virus poxvirus interleukin-10 gene function sequence homology evolutionary relationships genetics 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen B. Fleming
    • 1
  • David M. Haig
    • 2
  • Peter Nettleton
    • 2
  • Hugh W. Reid
    • 2
  • Catherine A. McCaughan
    • 1
  • Lyn M. Wise
    • 1
  • Andrew A. Mercer
    • 1
  1. 1.The Health Research Council Virus Research Unit and Center for Gene ResearchUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.The Moredun Research InstituteInternational Research CenterPenicuikUK

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