Hantaviruses replicate in primary and cultured animal cells with little or no cytopathic effect. We report here that the cultured Vero E6 cells infected by the Hantaan or by the Prospect Hill viruses exhibited characteristic features of apoptosis, including condensation and segmentation of nuclei and internucleosomal cleavage of nuclear DNA. Apoptosis was not seen in the cells adsorbed by UV-inactivated virus, indicating that the viral replication is required for the induction of apoptosis. Furthermore, level of the proto-oncogenic Bcl-2 protein was significantly reduced, whereas its mRNA level remained unchanged in Hantaan virus-infected cells, suggesting possible involvement and posttranscriptional regulation of this antiapoptotic protein in the process.
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