Evidence for a novel regulatory pathway for herpes simplex virus gene expression in trigeminal ganglion neurons.

Abstract:

Thymidine kinase (TK)-negative (TK-) mutant strains of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) show reduced expression of alpha and beta viral genes during acute infection of trigeminal ganglion neurons following corneal infection (M. Kosz-Vnenchak, D. M. Coen, and D. M. Knipe, J. Virol. 64:5396-5402, 1990). It was surprising that a defect in a beta gene product would lead to decreased alpha and beta gene expression, given the regulatory pathways demonstrated for HSV infection of cultured cells. In this study, we have examined viral gene expression during reactivation from latent infection in explanted trigeminal ganglion tissue. In explant reactivation studies with wild-type virus, we observed viral productive gene expression over the first 48 h of explant incubation occurring in a temporal order (alpha, beta, gamma) similar to that in cultured cells. This occurred predominantly in latency-associated transcript-positive neurons but was limited to a fraction of these cells. In contrast, TK- mutant viruses showed greatly reduced alpha and beta gene expression upon explant of latently infected trigeminal ganglion tissue. An inhibitor of viral TK or an inhibitor of viral DNA polymerase greatly decreased viral lytic gene expression in trigeminal ganglion tissue latently infected with wild-type virus and explanted in culture. These results indicate that the regulatory mechanisms governing HSV gene expression are different in trigeminal ganglion neurons and cultured cells. We present a new model for viral gene expression in trigeminal ganglion neurons with implications for the nature of the decision process between latent infection and productive infection by HSV.

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