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Front Aging Neurosci. 2018 Mar 6;10:48. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2018.00048. eCollection 2018.

Molecular Mechanisms for Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Pathogenesis in Alzheimer's Disease.

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St. Vincent Medical Group, Northside Internal Medicine, Indianapolis, IN, United States.
Department of Neurology, University of Chicago Medical Center, Chicago, IL, United States.


This review focuses on research in the areas of epidemiology, neuropathology, molecular biology and genetics that implicates herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) as a causative agent in the pathogenesis of sporadic Alzheimer's disease (AD). Molecular mechanisms whereby HSV-1 induces AD-related pathophysiology and pathology, including neuronal production and accumulation of amyloid beta (Aβ), hyperphosphorylation of tau proteins, dysregulation of calcium homeostasis, and impaired autophagy, are discussed. HSV-1 causes additional AD pathologies through mechanisms that promote neuroinflammation, oxidative stress, mitochondrial damage, synaptic dysfunction, and neuronal apoptosis. The AD susceptibility genes apolipoprotein E (APOE), phosphatidylinositol binding clathrin assembly protein (PICALM), complement receptor 1 (CR1) and clusterin (CLU) are involved in the HSV lifecycle. Polymorphisms in these genes may affect brain susceptibility to HSV-1 infection. APOE, for example, influences susceptibility to certain viral infections, HSV-1 viral load in the brain, and the innate immune response. The AD susceptibility gene cholesterol 25-hydroxylase (CH25H) is upregulated in the AD brain and is involved in the antiviral immune response. HSV-1 interacts with additional genes to affect cognition-related pathways and key enzymes involved in Aβ production, Aβ clearance, and hyperphosphorylation of tau proteins. Aβ itself functions as an antimicrobial peptide (AMP) against various pathogens including HSV-1. Evidence is presented supporting the hypothesis that Aβ is produced as an AMP in response to HSV-1 and other brain infections, leading to Aβ deposition and plaque formation in AD. Epidemiologic studies associating HSV-1 infection with AD and cognitive impairment are discussed. Studies are reviewed supporting subclinical chronic reactivation of latent HSV-1 in the brain as significant in the pathogenesis of AD. Finally, the rationale for and importance of clinical trials treating HSV-1-infected MCI and AD patients with antiviral medication is discussed.


Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid beta; dementia; herpes simplex virus; neurodegeneration; neuroinflammation; pathogen; tau

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