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Keywords:

  • virus;
  • stem cells;
  • encephalitis;
  • protection;
  • cytokines

Herpes virus type 1 (HSV-1) is one of the most widespread human pathogens and accounts for more than 90% of cases of herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE) causing severe and permanent neurologic sequelae among surviving patients. We hypothesize such CNS deficits are due to HSV-1 infection of neural progenitor cells (NPCs). In vivo, HSV-1 infection was found to diminish NPC numbers in the subventricular zone. Upon culture of NPCs in conditions that stimulate their differentiation, we found HSV-1 infection of NPCs resulted in the loss of neuronal precursors with no significant change in the percentage of astrocytes or oligodendrocytes. We propose this is due a direct effect of HSV-1 on neuronal survival without alteration of the differentiation process. The neuronal loss was prevented by the addition of microglia or conditioned media from NPC/microglia co-cultures. Using neutralizing antibodies and recombinant cytokines, we identified interleukin-6 (IL-6) as responsible for the protective effect by microglia, likely through its downstream Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 3 (STAT3) cascade. GLIA 2014;62:1418–1434