Nuclear Import of the Parvovirus Minute Virus of Mice

Parvoviruses are small, single stranded DNA viruses that must enter the nucleus of their host cells in order to replicate. Because of their ability to target and kill rapidly dividing cancer cells, parvoviruses have recently gained attention as potential vectors (carriers) for use in cancer gene therapy. Although research has led to a better understanding of cell entry and trafficking of parvoviruses, little is known about how parvoviruses are imported into the nucleus. Sarah Cohen is continuing her earlier MSFHR-funded research which examined how a specific parvovirus, Minute virus of mice (MVM), enters the cell nucleus. Cohen’s research discovered that MVM selectively breaks down the membranes surrounding the nucleus, the nuclear envelope (NE), in the early stages of infection. Now, she is investigating how parvoviruses disrupt the nuclear envelope of host cells and whether this disruption allows the MVM access into the cell nucleus. Cohen’s goal is to determine whether parvoviruses initiate the process leading to cell death (apoptosis) early in an infection. If so, it may be possible to boost the anti-cancer activity of parvoviruses, by engineering them to produce additional proteins that can kill cancer cells. Ultimately, this research could show MVM is a viable anti-cancer agent for clinical studies.