Molluscum Contagiosum Virus Transcriptome in Abortively Infected Cultured Cells and a Human Skin Lesion. Academic Article uri icon


  • UNLABELLED: Molluscum contagiosum virus (MOCV), the only circulating human-specific poxvirus, has a worldwide distribution and causes benign skin lesions that may persist for months in young children and severe infections in immunosuppressed adults. Studies of MOCV are restricted by the lack of an efficient animal model or a cell culture replication system. We used next-generation sequencing to analyze and compare polyadenylated RNAs from abortive MOCV infections of several cell lines and a human skin lesion. Viral RNAs were detected for 14 days after MOCV infection of cultured cells; however, there was little change in the RNA species during this time and a similar pattern occurred in the presence of an inhibitor of protein synthesis, indicating a block preventing postreplicative gene expression. Moreover, a considerable number of MOCV RNAs mapped to homologs of orthopoxvirus early genes, but few did so to homologs of intermediate or late genes. The RNAs made during in vitro infections represent a subset of RNAs detected in human skin lesions which mapped to homologs of numerous postreplicative as well as early orthopoxvirus genes. Transfection experiments using fluorescent protein and luciferase reporters demonstrated that vaccinia virus recognized MOCV intermediate and late promoters, indicating similar gene regulation. The specific recognition of the intermediate promoter in MOCV-infected cells provided evidence for the synthesis of intermediate transcription factors, which are products of early genes, but not for late transcription factors. Transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) and reporter gene assays may be useful for testing engineered cell lines and conditions that ultimately could provide an in vitro replication system. IMPORTANCE: The inability to propagate molluscum contagiosum virus, which causes benign skin lesions in young children and more extensive infections in immunosuppressed adults, has constrained our understanding of the biology of this human-specific virus. In the present study, we characterized the RNAs synthesized in abortively infected cultured cells and a human skin lesion by next-generation sequencing. These studies provided an initial transcription map of the MOCV genome, suggested temporal regulation of gene expression, and indicated that the in vitro replication block occurs prior to intermediate and late gene expression. RNA-seq and reporter assays, as described here, may help to further evaluate MOCV gene expression and define conditions that could enable MOCV replication in vitro.

published proceedings

  • J Virol

altmetric score

  • 1.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Mendez-Rios, J. D., Yang, Z., Erlandson, K. J., Cohen, J. I., Martens, C. A., Bruno, D. P., Porcella, S. F., & Moss, B.

citation count

  • 8

complete list of authors

  • Mendez-Rios, Jorge D||Yang, Zhilong||Erlandson, Karl J||Cohen, Jeffrey I||Martens, Craig A||Bruno, Daniel P||Porcella, Stephen F||Moss, Bernard

editor list (cited editors)

  • McFadden, G.

publication date

  • May 2016