Poxviral strategies to overcome host cell apoptosis
© 2020 by the authors. Li-censee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Apoptosis is a form of cellular suicide initiated either via extracellular (extrinsic apoptosis) or intracellular (intrinsic apoptosis) cues. This form of programmed cell death plays a crucial role in development and tissue homeostasis in multicellular organisms and its dysregulation is an underlying cause for many diseases. Intrinsic apoptosis is regulated by members of the evolutionarily conserved B-cell lymphoma-2 (Bcl-2) family, a family that consists of pro-and anti-apoptotic members. Bcl-2 genes have also been assimilated by numerous viruses including pox viruses, in particular the sub-family of chordopoxviridae, a group of viruses known to infect almost all vertebrates. The viral Bcl-2 proteins are virulence factors and aid the evasion of host immune defenses by mimicking the activity of their cellular counterparts. Viral Bcl-2 genes have proved essential for the survival of virus infected cells and structural studies have shown that though they often share very little sequence identity with their cellular counterparts, they have near-identical 3D structures. However, their mechanisms of action are varied. In this review, we examine the structural biology, molecular interactions, and detailed mechanism of action of poxvirus encoded apoptosis inhibitors and how they impact on host–virus interactions to ultimately enable successful infection and propagation of viral infections.