Viral infection of human neurons triggers strain-specific differences in host neuronal and viral transcriptomes

Colleen A. Mangold, Molly M. Rathbun, Daniel W. Renner, Chad V. Kuny, Moriah L. Szpara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Infection with herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) occurs in over half the global population, causing recurrent orofacial and/or genital lesions. Individual strains of HSV-1 demonstrate differences in neurovirulence in vivo, suggesting that viral genetic differences may impact phenotype. Here differentiated SH-SY5Y human neuronal cells were infected with one of three HSV-1 strains known to differ in neurovirulence in vivo. Host and viral RNA were sequenced simultaneously, revealing strain-specific differences in both viral and host transcription in infected neurons. Neuronal morphology and immunofluorescence data highlight the pathological changes in neuronal cytoarchitecture induced by HSV-1 infection, which may reflect host transcriptional changes in pathways associated with adherens junctions, integrin signaling, and others. Comparison of viral protein levels in neurons and epithelial cells demonstrated that a number of differences were neuron-specific, suggesting that strain-to-strain variations in host and virus transcription are cell type-dependent. Together, these data demonstrate the importance of studying virus strain- and cell-type-specific factors that may contribute to neurovirulence in vivo, and highlight the specificity of HSV-1- host interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1009441
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology


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