National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases, School of Systems Biology, George Mason University, Manassas, VA 20110, USA.
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) is a New World alphavirus that is vectored by mosquitos and cycled in rodents. It can cause disease in equines and humans characterized by a febrile illness that may progress into encephalitis. Like the capsid protein of other viruses, VEEV capsid is an abundant structural protein that binds to the viral RNA and interacts with the membrane-bound glycoproteins. It also has protease activity, allowing cleavage of itself from the growing structural polypeptide during translation. However, VEEV capsid protein has additional nonstructural roles within the host cell functioning as the primary virulence factor for VEEV. VEEV capsid inhibits host transcription and blocks nuclear import in mammalian cells, at least partially due to its complexing with the host CRM1 and importin α/β1 nuclear transport proteins. VEEV capsid also shuttles between the nucleus and cytoplasm and is susceptible to inhibitors of nuclear trafficking, making it a promising antiviral target. Herein, the role of VEEV capsid in viral replication and pathogenesis will be discussed including a comparison to proteins of other alphaviruses.
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