Characteristics of the virus and its antigens

The human herpesviruses share a common morphology and genome structure. The VZV virus is about 200 nm in diameter and includes an inner nucleocapsid surrounded by a lipid envelope from which protrude the immunogenic viral glycoproteins. The DNA molecule is housed within the nucleocapsid. The sequence of the genome contains nearly 125 000 base pairs, including 71 open reading frames which may encode viral proteins. Six of the open reading frames specify viral glycoproteins; these have been designated gB, gC, gE, gH, gl and gL (Figure 1).

The glycoproteins are important structural components of the viral particle; in addition, they are inserted into the plasma membrane of the infected cell. As such, they are important antigens by which the host regulates the immune response after infection. The predominant viral glycoprotein is gE, a

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