The glycoproteins of Marburg and Ebola virus and their potential roles in pathogenesis

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Summary

Filoviruses cause systemic infections that can lead to severe hemor- rhagic fever in human and non-human primates. The primary target of the virus appears to be the mononuclear phagocytic system. As the virus spreads through the organism, the spectrum of target cells increases to include endothelial cells, fibroblasts, hepatocytes, and many other cells. There is evidence that the filovirus glycoprotein plays an important role in cell tropism, spread of infection, and pathogenicity. Biosynthesis of the glycoprotein forming the spikes on the virion surface involves cleavage by the host cell protease furin into two disulfide linked subunits GP1 and GP2. GP1 is also shed in soluble form from infected cells. Different strains of Ebola virus show variations in the cleavability of the glycoprotein, that may account for differences in pathogenicity, as has been observed with influenza viruses and paramyxoviruses. Expression of the spike glycoprotein of Ebola virus, but not of Marburg virus, requires transcriptional editing. Unedited GP mRNA yields the nonstructural glycoprotein sGP, which is secreted extensively from infected cells. Whether the soluble glycoproteins GP1 and sGP interfere with the humoral immune response and other defense mechanisms remains to be determined.