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J Virol. 2007 Aug;81(15):8149-56. Epub 2007 May 16.

Simian varicella virus expresses a latency-associated transcript that is antisense to open reading frame 61 (ICP0) mRNA in neural ganglia of latently infected monkeys.

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  • 1Dept. of Microbiology and Immunology, Slot 511, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 4301 W. Markham St., Little Rock, AR 72205, USA.


Simian varicella virus (SVV) and varicella-zoster virus (VZV) are closely related alphaherpesviruses that cause varicella (chickenpox) in nonhuman primates and humans, respectively. After resolution of the primary disease, SVV and VZV establish latent infection of neural ganglia and may later reactivate to cause a secondary disease (herpes zoster). This study investigated SVV gene expression in neural ganglia derived from latently infected vervet monkeys. SVV transcripts were detected in neural ganglia, but not in liver or lung tissues, of latently infected animals. A transcript mapping to open reading frame (ORF) 61 (herpes simplex virus type 1 [HSV-1] ICP0 homolog) was consistently detected in latently infected trigeminal, cervical, and lumbar ganglia by reverse transcriptase PCR. Further analysis confirmed that this SVV latency-associated transcript (LAT) was oriented antisense to the gene 61 mRNA. SVV ORF 21 transcripts were also detected in 42% of neural ganglia during latency. In contrast, SVV ORF 28, 29, 31, 62, and 63 transcripts were not detected in ganglia, liver, or lung tissues of latently infected animals. The results demonstrate that viral gene expression is limited during SVV latency and that a LAT antisense to an ICP0 homolog is expressed. In this regard, SVV gene expression during latency is similar to that of HSV-1 and other neurotropic animal alphaherpesviruses but differs from that reported for VZV.

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