Problem: Genital herpes simplex infections are generally limited to epithelia and neurons. Vaccines have had activity in herpes simplex virus (HSV)-seronegative women only. Understanding how HSV-specific T cells traffic to infected sites may assist in vaccine design.
Method of Study: Herpes simplex virus epitopes recognized by HSV-specific CD8 T cells were identified and used to make fluorescent human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-peptide tetramers. Molecules related to lymphocyte rolling adhesion were studied by flow cytometry and cell binding. HSV-specific CD4 T cells identified ex vivo by cytokine accumulation or activation marker expression, or detected in vitro by 5-(and-6)-carboxyfluorescein diacetate, succinimidyl ester (CFSE) dilution, were similarly investigated.
Results: Herpes simplex virus-specific T cells are 10- to 100-fold more prevalent in lesional skin compared with blood and greatly enriched in lesions compared with normal skin. Diverse viral antigens are recognized by HSV-specific T cells. Functionally active E-selectin ligand, and cutaneous lymphocyte antigen (CLA), are expressed by circulating HSV-2-specific CD8 cells. CD4 cells display lower levels of CLA that are dramatically up-regulated upon re-stimulation with antigen.
Conclusions: Herpes simplex virus-2-specific CD8 and CD4 T cells differ in constitutive expression of skin homing molecules. Vaccines designed to induce proper homing are postulated to have increased efficacy.