The role of herpes simplex thymidine kinase expression in neurovirulence and latency in newborn vs. adult mice

Kathleen A. Hay, Andrew Gaydos, Richard B. Tenser

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9 Scopus citations


Infection by standard thymidine kinase-positive (TK+) and TK- mutant herpes simplex virus (HSV) was performed in order to evaluate the role of HSV TK expression in neurovirulence and in HSV latency. In newborn mice, mortality and trigeminal ganglion (TG) HSV titer correlated (both were high) for TK+ and TK- HSV. In adult mice after TK- HSV infection they also correlated (both were low). After TK+ infection of adult mice, correlation was not present; mortality was low while HSV titer was moderately high. During the period of HSV latent infection (> 28 days after HSV infection), the number of neurons expressing HSV latency-associated transcript (LAT) was much greater for TK- HSV newborn-inoculated mice (average of 943/ganglion) than adult-inoculated mice (average of 138/ganglion). In addition, total amount of TG LAT was greater in the former than the latter. Reactivation from latency was restricted, however, for both groups. This result supported the important role of HSV TK expression in HSV reactivation, even when the number of LAT-positive neurons was greatly increased. The following conclusions were drawn from the study of TK- HSV in newborn mice: (i) HSV TK expression was of limited importance for neurovirulence and in vivo HSV TG infection (but was of importance in adult mice); (ii) increased in vivo HSV TG infection correlated with increased number of LAT-positive neurons, so that HSV replication and establishment of latency were not completely separable; and (iii) even with greatly increased numbers of latently infected neurons, HSV TK expression was important for reactivation from latency. Results in newborn mice suggested that the role of HSV TK expression in reactivation from latency and in neurovirulence were separable. To further investigate HSV replication in newborn and adult mice, ganglia were infected with HSV in vitro and either maintained in vitro or transplanted beneath the renal capsule of adult recipients. In both of these studies, HSV titers in ganglia were much higher in newborn than adult ganglia. This suggested that in addition to the well-know role of the immune system in HSV neurovirulence in newborn mice, it is likely that HSV replication per se in neural tissue is greater in newborn than adult mice. This may be related to the high level of HSV neurovirulence in newborn mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-52
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroimmunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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