The tropism of herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) for human sensory neurons infected in vivo was examined using dorsal root ganglion (DRG) xenografts maintained in mice with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). In contrast to the HSV-1 lytic infectious cycle in vitro, replication of the HSV-1 F strain was restricted in human DRG neurons despite the absence of adaptive immune responses in SCID mice, allowing the establishment of neuronal latency. At 12 days after DRG inoculation, 26.2% of human neurons expressed HSV-1 protein and 13.1% expressed latency-associated transcripts (LAT). Some infected neurons showed cytopathic changes, but HSV-1, unlike varicella-zoster virus (VZV), only rarely infected satellite cells and did not induce fusion of neuronal and satellite cell plasma membranes. Cell-free enveloped HSV-1 virions were observed, indicating productive infection. A recombinant HSV-1-expressing luciferase exhibited less virulence than HSV-1 F in the SCID mouse host, enabling analysis of infection in human DRG xenografts for a 61-day interval. At 12 days after inoculation, 4.2% of neurons expressed HSV-1 proteins; frequencies increased to 32.1% at 33 days but declined to 20.8% by 61 days. Frequencies of LAT-positive neurons were 1.2% at 12 days and increased to 40.2% at 33 days. LAT expression remained at 37% at 61 days, in contrast to the decline in neurons expressing viral proteins. These observations show that the progression of HSV-1 infection is highly restricted in human DRG, and HSV-1 genome silencing occurs in human neurons infected in vivo as a consequence of virus-host cell interactions and does not require adaptive immune control.
View details for DOI 10.1128/JVI.01375-12
View details for Web of Science ID 000314876900038
View details for PubMedID 23269807