Herpes simplex virus latency in the nervous system – a new model


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Permissive herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection in tissue culture results in host cell destruction. Latent HSV infection in vivo occurs in neurons of peripheral sensory ganglia (PSG) and it therefore can not take place in neurons in which the virus has completed a lytic replication cycle similar to that present in vitro. Our hypothesis, based on experimental data and observations in humans, suggests that establishment of latent infection and reactivation of HSV‐1 does not involve neuronal cell loss. Latency is established in neurons in which the virus does not replicate and is determined, in part, by the tissue levels of a herpes transactivating protein (Vmw65) that is a component of the viral tegument. We also suggest that reactivation of latent infection does not involve destruction of neurons and is due to replication of virus at the peripheral mucocutaneous tissues to where virus or viral DNA have been transported from the nervous tissue. Alternatively, reactivation is initiated in the PSG using a replication cycle which does not involve irreversible damage to neurons. This model explains the lack of damage to neurons which continue to serve as permanent reservoirs of latent virus for the entire life of the host.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-440
Number of pages8
JournalNeuropathology and Applied Neurobiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Vmw65
  • herpes simplex virus type 1
  • latent viral infection
  • nervous system
  • transactivation
  • viral pathogenesis
  • viral reactivation


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