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J Infect Dis. 2008 Mar 1;197 Suppl 2:S61-5. doi: 10.1086/522149.

A model of lytic, latent, and reactivating varicella-zoster virus infections in isolated enteric neurons.

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Department of Pediatrics, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York 10032, USA. aag1@columbia.Edu


Because human primary afferent neurons are not readily obtained, we sought to develop a model in which the lytic, latent, and reactivating phases of varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infection were recapitulated in neurons from an animal source. Enteric neurons were obtained from the small intestine of adult guinea pigs and from the bowel of fetal mice. Latency was established when these neurons were infected by cell-free VZV in the absence of fibroblasts or other cells of mesodermal origin. In contrast, lytic infection ensued when fibroblasts were present or when the enteric neurons were infected by cell-associated VZV. Latency was associated with the expression of a limited subset of viral genes, the products of which were restricted to the cytoplasm. Lysis was associated with the expression of viral glycoproteins, nuclear translocation of latency-associated gene products, and rapid cell death. Reactivation was accomplished by expressing VZV open reading frame (ORF) 61p or herpes simplex virus ICP0 in latently infected neurons. Isolated enteric neurons from guinea pigs and mice recapitulate latent gene expression in human cranial nerve and dorsal root ganglia. Expression of latency-associated VZV gene products was detected in 88% of samples of adult human intestine, suggesting that VZV not only infects enteric neurons but also is latent in the human enteric nervous system. This in vitro model should facilitate further understanding of latency and reactivation of VZV.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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