Human Ads (adenoviruses) have been extensively utilized for the development of vectors for gene transfer, as they infect many cell types and do not integrate their genome into host-cell chromosomes. In addition, they have been widely studied as cytolytic viruses, termed oncolytic adenoviruses in cancer therapy. Ads are non-enveloped viruses with a linear double-stranded DNA genome of 30–38 kb which encodes 30–40 genes. At least 52 human Ad serotypes have been identified and classified into seven species, A–G. The Ad capsid has icosahedral symmetry and is composed of 252 capsomers, of which 240 are located on the facets of the capsid and consist of a trimeric hexon protein and the remaining 12 capsomers, the pentons, are at the vertices and comprise the penton base and projecting fibre protein. The entry of Ads into human cells is a two-step process. In the first step, the fibre protein mediates a primary interaction with the cell, effectively tethering the virus particle to the cell surface via a cellular attachment protein. The penton base then interacts with cell-surface integrins, leading to virus internalization. This interaction of the fibre protein with a number of cell-surface molecules appears to be important in determining the tropism of adenoviruses. Ads from all species, except species B and certain serotypes of species D, utilize CAR (coxsackie and adenovirus receptor) as their primary cellular-attachment protein, whereas most species B Ads use CD46, a complement regulatory protein. Such species-specific differences, as well as adaptations or modifications of Ads required for applications in gene therapy, form the major focus of the present review.

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