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PLoS Pathog. 2018 Jan 24;14(1):e1006865. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006865. eCollection 2018 Jan.

Conditional mutagenesis in vivo reveals cell type- and infection stage-specific requirements for LANA in chronic MHV68 infection.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Center for Microbial Pathogenesis and Host Inflammatory Responses, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas, United States of America.
Gundersen Health System, La Crosse, Wisconsin, United States of America.


Gammaherpesvirus (GHV) pathogenesis is a complex process that involves productive viral replication, dissemination to tissues that harbor lifelong latent infection, and reactivation from latency back into a productive replication cycle. Traditional loss-of-function mutagenesis approaches in mice using murine gammaherpesvirus 68 (MHV68), a model that allows for examination of GHV pathogenesis in vivo, have been invaluable for defining requirements for specific viral gene products in GHV infection. But these approaches are insufficient to fully reveal how viral gene products contribute when the encoded protein facilitates multiple processes in the infectious cycle and when these functions vary over time and from one host tissue to another. To address this complexity, we developed an MHV68 genetic platform that enables cell-type-specific and inducible viral gene deletion in vivo. We employed this system to re-evaluate functions of the MHV68 latency-associated nuclear antigen (mLANA), a protein with roles in both viral replication and latency. Cre-mediated deletion in mice of loxP-flanked ORF73 demonstrated the necessity of mLANA in B cells for MHV68 latency establishment. Impaired latency during the transition from draining lymph nodes to blood following mLANA deletion also was observed, supporting the hypothesis that B cells are a major conduit for viral dissemination. Ablation of mLANA in infected germinal center (GC) B cells severely impaired viral latency, indicating the importance of viral passage through the GC for latency establishment. Finally, induced ablation of mLANA during latency resulted in complete loss of affected viral genomes, indicating that mLANA is critically important for maintenance of viral genomes during stable latency. Collectively, these experiments provide new insights into LANA homolog functions in GHV colonization of the host and highlight the potential of a new MHV68 genetic platform to foster a more complete understanding of viral gene functions at discrete stages of GHV pathogenesis.

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