Orf virus is the type species of the Parapoxvirus
genus of the family Poxviridae
. It induces acute pustular skin lesions in sheep and goats and is transmissible to humans. The genome is G+C rich, 138 kbp and encodes 132 genes. It shares many essential genes with vaccinia virus that are required for survival but encodes a number of unique factors that allow it to replicate in the highly specific immune environment of skin. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that both viral interleukin-10 and vascular endothelial growth factor genes have been “captured” from their host during the evolution of the parapoxviruses. Genes such as a chemokine binding protein and a protein that binds granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor and interleukin-2 appear to have evolved from a common poxvirus ancestral gene while three parapoxvirus nuclear factor (NF)-κB signalling pathway inhibitors have no homology to other known NF-κB inhibitors. A homologue of an anaphase-promoting complex subunit that is believed to manipulate the cell cycle and enhance viral DNA synthesis appears to be a specific adaptation for viral-replication in keratinocytes. The review focuses on the unique genes of orf virus, discusses their evolutionary origins and their role in allowing viral-replication in the skin epidermis.
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