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Human cytomegalovirus (CMV), a herpesvirus that causes congenital disease and opportunistic infections in immunocompromised individuals, encodes functions that facilitate efficient viral propagation by altering host cell behavior. Here we show that CMV blocks apoptosis mediated by death receptors and encodes a mitochondria-localized inhibitor of apoptosis, denoted vMIA, capable of suppressing apoptosis induced by diverse stimuli. vMIA, a product of the viral UL37 gene, inhibits Fas-mediated apoptosis at a point downstream of caspase-8 activation and Bid cleavage but upstream of cytochrome and associating with adenine nucleotide translocator. These functional properties resemble those ascribed to Bcl-2; however, the absence of sequence similarity to Bcl-2 or any other known cell death suppressors suggests that vMIA defines a previously undescribed class of anti-apoptotic proteins.
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