Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is a neurotropic alphaherpesvirus. VZV infection of human dorsal root ganglion (DRG) xenografts in immunodeficient mice models the infection of sensory ganglia. We examined DRG infection with recombinant VZV (recombinant Oka [rOka]) and the following gE mutants: gE?27-90, gE?Cys, gE-AYRV, and gE-SSTT. gE?27-90, which lacks the gE domain that interacts with a putative receptor insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE), replicated as extensively as rOka, producing infectious virions and significant cytopathic effects within 14 days of inoculation. Since neural cells express IDE, the gE/IDE interaction was dispensable for VZV neurotropism. In contrast, gE?Cys, which lacks gE/gI heterodimer formation, was significantly impaired at early times postinfection; viral genome copy numbers increased slowly, and infectious virus production was not detected until day 28. Delayed replication was associated with impaired cell-cell spread in ganglia, similar to the phenotype of a gI deletion mutant (rOka?gI). However, at later time points, infection of satellite cells and other supportive nonneuronal cells resulted in extensive DRG tissue damage and cell loss such that cytopathic changes observed at day 70 were more severe than those for rOka-infected DRG. The replication of gE-AYRV, which is impaired for trans-Golgi network (TGN) localization, and the replication of gE-SSTT, which contains mutations in an acidic cluster, were equivalent to that of rOka, causing significant cytopathic effects and infectious virus production by day 14; genome copy numbers were equivalent to those of rOka. These experiments suggest that the gE interaction with cellular IDE, gE targeting to TGN sites of virion envelopment, and phosphorylation at SSTT are dispensable for VZV DRG infection, whereas the gE/gI interaction is critical for VZV neurovirulence.
View details for DOI 10.1128/JVI.01902-10
View details for Web of Science ID 000285095800008
View details for PubMedID 20962081