Monkeypox virus (MPV) is a smallpox-like virus belonging to the genus Orthopoxvirus of the family Poxviridae. Unlike smallpox with no animal reservoir identified and patients suffering from milder symptoms with less mortality, several animals were confirmed to serve as natural hosts of MPV. The reemergence of a recently reported monkeypox epidemic outbreak in nonendemic countries has raised concerns about a global outburst. Since the underlying mechanism of animal-to-human transmission remains largely unknown, comprehensive analyses to discover principal differences in gene signatures during disease progression have become ever more critical. In this study, two MPV-infected in vitro models, including human immortal epithelial cancer (HeLa) cells and rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta) kidney epithelial (MK2) cells, were chosen as the two subjects to identify alterations in gene expression profiles, together with co-regulated genes and pathways that are affected during monkeypox disease progression. Using Gene Ontology (GO), Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG), and MetaCore analyses, we discovered that elevated expression of genes associated with interleukins (ILs), G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), heat shock proteins (HSPs), Toll-like receptors (TLRs), and metabolic-related pathways play major roles in disease progression of both monkeypox-infected monkey MK2 and human HeLa cell lines. Interestingly, our analytical results also revealed that a cluster of differentiation 40 (CD40), plasmin, and histamine served as major regulators in the monkeypox-infected monkey MK2 cell line model, while interferons (IFNs), macrophages, and neutrophil-related signaling pathways dominated the monkeypox-infected human HeLa cell line model. Among immune pathways of interest, apart from traditional monkeypox-regulated signaling pathways such as nuclear factor- (NF-κB), mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), and tumor necrosis factors (TNFs), we also identified highly significantly expressed genes in both monkey and human models that played pivotal roles during the progression of monkeypox infection, including CXCL1, TNFAIP3, BIRC3, IL6, CCL2, ZC3H12A, IL11, CSF2, LIF, PTX3, IER3, EGR1, ADORA2A, and DUOX1, together with several epigenetic regulators, such as histone cluster family gene members, HIST1H3D, HIST1H2BJ, etc. These findings might contribute to specific underlying mechanisms related to the pathophysiology and provide suggestions regarding modes of transmission, post-infectious sequelae, and vaccine development for monkeypox in the future.
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