What justifies the size of this compendium of reviews on the paramyxoviruses? As intracellular parasites that reproduce with almost complete indifference to nuclear activities, paramyxoviruses have not been providing insights about genes that regulate cellular activities and development, topics that account for much of the excitement in modem biology. For contributions of virus research to those topics, we must look to the retroviruses, which have the propensity to steal developmentally important genes and subvert them to malignant pur poses, and to the nuclear DNA viruses, whose gene expression depends heavily upon cellular transcription machinery, making them exceptionally useful tools for identifying and characterizing components of that machinery. From this perspective, it may appear that purely lytic viruses like the paramyxoviruses are sitting on the sidelines of contemporary biology. But there is plenty of action on the sidelines. Paramyxoviruses remain unconquered, devastating agents of disease. Human deaths attributable to paramyxoviruses worldwide, especially in children, are numbered in the mil lions annually. There are many pathogenic paramyxoviruses and too few effec tive vaccines, and those vaccines (against measles and mumps) are affordable only by relatively affluent nations. Moreover, the paramyxoviruses are intrin sically interesting organisms, presenting the challenge of understanding the self-replication of RNA and many other challenges peculiar to the structures and functions of their proteins, not only as individual entities, but also as they act in concert during virus reproduction and interact with vital functions of the cells they infect and often (but not always) destroy.
Springer Book Archives