White spot syndrome virus (WSSV) is an enveloped, large dsDNA virus that mainly infects penaeid shrimp, causing serious damage to the shrimp aquaculture industry. Like other animal viruses, WSSV infection induces apoptosis. Although this occurs even in by-stander cells that are free of WSSV virions, apoptosis is generally regarded as a kind of antiviral immune response. To counter this response, WSSV has evolved several different strategies. From the presently available literature, we construct a model of how the host and virus both attempt to regulate apoptosis to their respective advantage. The basic sequence of events is as follows: first, when a WSSV infection occurs, cellular sensors detect the invading virus, and activate signaling pathways that lead to (1) the expression of pro-apoptosis proteins, including PmCasp (an effecter caspase), MjCaspase (an initiator caspase) and voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC); and (2) mitochondrial changes, including the induction of mitochondrial membrane permeabilization and increased oxidative stress. These events initiate the apoptosis program. Meanwhile, WSSV begins to express its genes, including two anti-apoptosis proteins: AAP-1, which is a direct caspase inhibitor, and WSV222, which is an E3 ubiquitin ligase that blocks apoptosis through the ubiquitin-mediated degradation of shrimp TSL protein (an apoptosis inducer). WSSV also induces the expression of a shrimp anti-apoptosis protein, Pm-fortilin, which can act on Bax to inhibit mitochondria-triggered apoptosis. This is a life and death struggle because the virus needs to prevent apoptosis in order to replicate. If WSSV succeeds in replicating in sufficient numbers, this will result in the death of the infected penaeid shrimp host.Highlights
★ WSSV infection induces an antiviral apoptosis response in shrimp. ★ WSSV AAP-1 and WSV222 suppress apoptosis in host cells through different mechanisms. ★ WSSV modulates expression of apoptosis-related genes: caspases, Pm-fortilin and VDAC. ★ AAP-1, WSV222 and Pm-fortilin block apoptosis to allow WSSV replication.