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J Virol. 2011 Apr;85(7):3424-35. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02263-10. Epub 2010 Dec 29.

Reversal of heterochromatic silencing of quiescent herpes simplex virus type 1 by ICP0.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 547 Bridgeside Point II, 400 Technology Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Persisting latent herpes simplex virus genomes are to some degree found in a heterochromatic state, and this contributes to reduced gene expression resulting in quiescence. We used a relatively long-term quiescent infection model in human fibroblasts, followed by provision of ICP0 in trans, to determine the effects of ICP0 on the viral chromatin state as gene expression is reactivated. Expression of ICP0, even at low levels, results in a reduction of higher-order chromatin structure and heterochromatin on quiescent viral genomes, and this effect precedes an increase in transcription. Concurrent with transcriptional activation, high levels of ICP0 expression result in the reduction of the heterochromatin mark trimethylated H3K9, removal of histones H3 and H4 from the quiescent genome, and hyperacetylation of the remaining histones. In contrast, low levels of ICP0 did not appreciably change the levels of histones on the viral genome. These results indicate that ICP0 activity ultimately affects chromatin structure of quiescent genomes at multiple levels, including higher-order chromatin structure, histone modifications, and histone association. Additionally, the level of ICP0 expression affected its ability to change chromatin structure but not to reactivate gene expression. While these observations suggest that some of the effects on chromatin structure are possibly not direct, they also suggest that ICP0 exerts its effects through multiple mechanisms.

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