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J Virol. 2017 Aug 10;91(17). pii: e00640-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00640-17. Print 2017 Sep 1.

Role of the JNK Pathway in Varicella-Zoster Virus Lytic Infection and Reactivation.

Author information

1
Division of Neuroimmunology and Neuroinfectious Diseases, Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
2
Medical Virology Section, Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.
3
Division of Clinical Virology, Center for Infectious Diseases, Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine, Kobe, Japan.
4
Institute for Cell Engineering, Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
5
Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
6
Division of Neuroimmunology and Neuroinfectious Diseases, Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA avenkat2@jhmi.edu.

Abstract

Mechanisms of neuronal infection by varicella-zoster virus (VZV) have been challenging to study due to the relatively strict human tropism of the virus and the paucity of tractable experimental models. Cellular mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) have been shown to play a role in VZV infection of nonneuronal cells, with distinct consequences for infectivity in different cell types. Here, we utilize several human neuronal culture systems to investigate the role of one such MAPK, the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), in VZV lytic infection and reactivation. We find that the JNK pathway is specifically activated following infection of human embryonic stem cell-derived neurons and that this activation of JNK is essential for efficient viral protein expression and replication. Inhibition of the JNK pathway blocked viral replication in a manner distinct from that of acyclovir, and an acyclovir-resistant VZV isolate was as sensitive to the effects of JNK inhibition as an acyclovir-sensitive VZV isolate in neurons. Moreover, in a microfluidic-based human neuronal model of viral latency and reactivation, we found that inhibition of the JNK pathway resulted in a marked reduction in reactivation of VZV. Finally, we utilized a novel technique to efficiently generate cells expressing markers of human sensory neurons from neural crest cells and established a critical role for the JNK pathway in infection of these cells. In summary, the JNK pathway plays an important role in lytic infection and reactivation of VZV in physiologically relevant cell types and may provide an alternative target for antiviral therapy.IMPORTANCE Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) has infected over 90% of people worldwide. While primary infection leads to the typically self-limiting condition of chickenpox, the virus can remain dormant in the nervous system and may reactivate later in life, leading to shingles or inflammatory diseases of the nervous system and eye with potentially severe consequences. Here, we take advantage of newer stem cell-based technologies to study the mechanisms by which VZV infects human neurons. We find that the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) pathway is activated by VZV infection and that blockade of this pathway limits lytic replication (as occurs during primary infection). In addition, JNK inhibition limits viral reactivation, exhibiting parallels with herpes simplex virus reactivation. The identification of the role of the JNK pathway in VZV infection of neurons reveals potential avenues for the development of alternate antiviral drugs.

KEYWORDS:

ES cell differentiation; VZV; latency; reactivation; stem cell; zoster

PMID:
28637759
PMCID:
PMC5553188
DOI:
10.1128/JVI.00640-17
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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