Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1) is best known for causing oral lesions and mild clinical symptoms, but it can produce a significant range of disease severities and rates of reactivation. To better understand this phenotypic variation, we characterized 11 HSV1 strains that were isolated from individuals with diverse infection outcomes. We provide new data on genomic and in vitro plaque phenotype analysis for these isolates and compare these data to previously reported quantitation of the disease phenotype of each strain in a murine animal model. We show that integration of these three types of data permitted clustering of these HSV1 strains into four groups that were not distinguishable by any single dataset alone, highlighting the benefits of combinatorial multi-parameter phenotyping. Two strains (group 1) produced a partially or largely syncytial plaque phenotype and attenuated disease phenotypes in mice. Three strains of intermediate plaque size, causing severe disease in mice, were genetically clustered to a second group (group 2). Six strains with the smallest average plaque sizes were separated into two subgroups (groups 3 and 4) based on their different genetic clustering and disease severity in mice. Comparative genomics and network graph analysis suggested a separation of HSV1 isolates with attenuated vs. virulent phenotypes. These observations imply that virulence phenotypes of these strains may be traceable to genetic variation within the HSV1 population.
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