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J Virol. 2004 Jan;78(1):224-39.

Herpes simplex virus type 1 immediate-early gene expression is required for the induction of apoptosis in human epithelial HEp-2 cells.

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Department of Microbiology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York 10029, USA.


Wild-type herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) induces apoptosis in human epithelial HEp-2 cells, but infected cell proteins produced later in infection block the process from killing the cells. Thus, HSV-1 infection in the presence of the translational inhibitor cycloheximide (CHX) results in apoptosis. Our specific goal was to gain insight as to the viral feature(s) responsible for triggering apoptosis during HSV-1 infection. We now report the following. (i) No viral protein synthesis or death factor processing was detected after infection with HSV-1(HFEMtsB7) at 39.5 degrees C; this mutant virus does not inject its virion DNA into the nucleus at this nonpermissive temperature. (ii) No death factor processing or apoptotic morphological changes were detected following infection with UV-irradiated, replication-defective viruses possessing transcriptionally active incoming VP16. (iii) Addition of the transcriptional inhibitor actinomycin D prevented death factor processing upon infection with the apoptotic, ICP27-deletion virus HSV-1(vBSDelta27). (iv) Apoptotic morphologies and death factor processing were not observed following infection with HSV-1(d109), a green fluorescent protein-expressing recombinant virus possessing deletions of all five immediate-early (IE) (or alpha) genes. (v) Finally, complete death factor processing was observed upon infection with the VP16 transactivation domain-mutant HSV-1(V422) in the presence of CHX. Based on these findings, we conclude that (vi) the expression of HSV-1 alpha/IE genes is required for the viral induction of apoptosis and (vii) the transactivation activity of VP16 is not necessary for this induction.

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