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J Virol. 1996 Jan;70(1):264-71.

Inflammatory infiltration of the trigeminal ganglion after herpes simplex virus type 1 corneal infection.

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Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago 60612, USA.


Following herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) infection of the cornea, the virus is transmitted to the trigeminal ganglion, where a brief period of virus replication is followed by establishment of a latent infection in neurons. A possible role of the immune system in regulating virus replication and maintaining latency in the sensory neurons has been suggested. We have investigated the phenotype and cytokine pattern of cells that infiltrate the A/J mouse trigeminal ganglion at various times after HSV-1 corneal infection. HSV antigen expression in the trigeminal ganglion (indicative of the viral lytic cycle) increased until day 3 postinfection (p.i.) and then diminished to undetectable levels by day 7 p.i. The period of declining HSV antigen expression. was associated with a marked increase in Mac-1+ cells. These cells did not appear to coexpress the F4/80+ (macrophage) or the CD8+ (T cell) markers, and none showed polymorphonuclear leukocyte morphology, suggesting a possible early infiltration of natural killer cells. There was also a significant increase in the trigeminal ganglion of cells expressing the gamma delta T-cell receptor, and these cells were found almost exclusively in very close association with neurons. This period was also characterized by a rapid and equivalent increase in cells expressing gamma interferon and interleukin-4. The density of the inflammatory infiltrate in the trigeminal ganglion increased until days 12 to 21 p.i., when it was predominated by CD8+, Mac-1+, and tumor necrosis factor-expressing cells, which surrounded many neurons. By day 92 p.i., the inflammatory infiltrate diminished but was heaviest in mice with active periocular skin disease. Our data are consistent with the notion that gamma interferon produced by natural killer cells and/or gamma delta T cells may play an important role in limiting HSV-1 replication in the trigeminal ganglion during the acute stage of infection. In addition, tumor necrosis factor produced by CD8+ T cells and macrophages may function to maintain the virus in a latent state.

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