Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes varicella and establishes latency in sensory nerve ganglia, but the characteristics of VZV latency are not well defined. Immunohistochemical detection of the VZV immediate-early 63 (IE63) protein in ganglion neurons has been described, but there are significant discrepancies in estimates of the frequency of IE63-positive neurons, varying from a rare event to abundant expression. We examined IE63 expression in cadaver ganglia using a high-potency rabbit anti-IE63 antibody and corresponding preimmune serum. Using standard immunohistochemical techniques, we evaluated 10 ganglia that contained VZV DNA from seven individuals. These experiments showed that neuronal pigments were a confounding variable; however, by examining sections coded to prevent investigator bias and applying statistical analysis, we determined that IE63 protein, if present, is in a very small proportion of neurons (<2.8%). To refine estimates of IE63 protein abundance, we modified our protocol by incorporating a biological stain to exclude the pigment signal and evaluated 27 ganglia from 18 individuals. We identified IE63 protein in neurons within only one ganglion, in which VZV glycoprotein E and an immune cell infiltrate were also demonstrated. Antigen preservation was shown by detection of neuronal synaptophysin. These data provide evidence that the expression of IE63 protein, which has been referred to as a latency-associated protein, is rare. Refining estimates of VZV protein expression in neurons is important for developing a hypothesis about the mechanisms by which VZV latency may be maintained.
View details for DOI 10.1128/JVI.02416-09
View details for Web of Science ID 000275307400028
View details for PubMedID 20106930