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The Presence of Lytic HSV-1 Transcripts and Clonally Expanded T Cells with a Memory Effector Phenotype in Human Sensory Ganglia


Address for correspondence: Diethilde Theil, Klinikum Grosshadern, Marchioninistrasse 23, 81377 Munich. Voice: +49 89 7095 4816; fax: +49 89 7095 4805.


Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) latent persistence in human trigeminal ganglia (TG) is accompanied by a chronic CD8 T-cell infiltration. Thus far, during HSV-1 latency only a single transcript, namely the latency-associated transcript (LAT), has been identified to be synthesized but not translated into a protein. In contrast, the chronic CD8 T-cell infiltration suggests that an antigen trigger must be present. The focus of the current work was to look for HSV-1 transcription activity as a potential trigger of the immune response and to demonstrate whether the immune cells are clonally expanded and have a phenotype that suggests that they have been triggered by viral antigen. By combining in situ hybridization, laser cutting microscopy, and single-cell real time RT-PCR, we demonstrated expression of the HSV-1 immediate early (IE) genes ICP0 and ICP4 in human trigeminal neurons. Using CDR3 spectratyping, we showed that the infiltrating T cells are clonally expanded, indicating an antigen-driven immune response. Moreover, the persisting CD8+ T cells had prominent features of the memory effector phenotype. Chemokines CCL5 and CXCL10 were expressed by a subpopulation of infiltrating cells and the corresponding chemokine receptors CCR5 and CXCR3 were co-expressed on virtually all T cells bearing the CD8 phenotype. Thus, HSV-1 IE genes are expressed in human TG, and the infiltrating T cells bear several characteristics that suggest viral antigenic stimulation.