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Ophthalmic Res. 2015;53(2):55-64. doi: 10.1159/000366228. Epub 2014 Dec 19.

Activation of checkpoint kinase 2 is critical for herpes simplex virus type 1 replication in corneal epithelium.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pa., USA.



Herpes simplex virus (HSV) type I keratitis remains a leading cause of corneal morbidity, despite the availability of effective antiviral drugs. Improved understanding of virus-host interactions at the level of the host DNA damage response (DDR), a known factor in the development of HSV-1 keratitis, may shed light on potential new therapeutic targets. This report examines the role of checkpoint kinase 2 (Chk2), a DDR mediator protein, in corneal epithelial HSV-1 infection.


A small-molecule inhibitor of Chk2 (Chk2 inhibitor II) was applied to HSV-1-infected cultured human corneal epithelial cells (hTCEpi and HCE) as well as to explanted and organotypically cultured human and rabbit corneas. Infection levels were assessed by plaque assay and real-time PCR. RNAi-mediated depletion of Chk2 was performed to confirm the effect of the inhibitor.


Inhibition of the Chk2 kinase activity greatly suppresses the cytopathic effect, genome replication and infectious progeny production in vitro and ex vivo.


This report demonstrates the critical role of Chk2 kinase in the establishment of HSV-1 corneal epithelial infection. These data contribute to our understanding of herpesvirus-host interactions and underscore the significance of DDR activation in HSV-1 keratitis.

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