A 4,500-bp BamHI fragment, located within the HindIII A segment of the vaccinia virus genome, was found to contain eight potential coding regions for polypeptides of 78 to 346 amino acids. The open reading frames with 133, 346, and 125 codons were homologous to profilin (an actin-binding protein), 3-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, and Cu-Zn superoxide dismutase, respectively. Sequence alignments indicated that the vaccinia virus and mammalian profilins were more closely related to each other than to known profilins of other eukaryotes. The expression and possible role of the profilin homolog in the virus replicative cycle were therefore investigated. Antibody raised to Escherichia coli expressed vaccinia virus profilin was used to demonstrate the synthesis of the 15-kDa polypeptide at late times after vaccinia virus infection of mammalian cells. The protein accumulated in the cytoplasm, but only trace amounts remained associated with highly purified virions. The isolation of vaccinia virus mutants (in strains WR and IHD-J), with nearly the entire profilin gene replaced by the E. coli gpt gene, indicated that the protein is not essential for infectivity. The characteristic vaccinia virus-induced changes in actin fibers, seen by fluorescence microscopy, occurred in cells infected with the mutant. Moreover, the virus-encoded profilin homolog was not required for actin-associated events, including intracellular virus movement to the periphery of the cell, formation of specialized microvilli, or release of mature virions, as shown by electron microscopy and yields of infectious intra- and extracellular virus
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