A dual fluorescent herpes simplex virus type 1 recombinant reveals divergent outcomes of neuronal infection

Luke F. Domanico, Gary P. Dunn, Oren Kobiler, Matthew P. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Critical stages of lytic herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) replication are marked by the sequential expression of immediate early (IE) to early (E), then late (L) viral genes. HSV-1 can also persist in neuronal cells via a non-replicative, transcriptionally repressed infection called latency. The regulation of lytic and latent transcriptional profiles is critical to HSV-1 pathogenesis and persistence. We sought a fluorescence-based approach to observe the outcome of neuronal HSV-1 infection at the single-cell level. To achieve this goal, we constructed and characterized a novel HSV-1 recombinant that enables discrimination between lytic and latent infection. The dual reporter HSV-1 encodes a human cytomegalovirus-immediate early (hCMV-IE) promoter-driven enhanced yellow fluorescent protein (eYFP) to visualize the establishment of infection and an endogenous mCherry-VP26 fusion to report lytic replication. We confirmed that viral gene expression, replication, and spread of infection are not altered by the incorporation of the fluorescent reporters, and fluorescent protein (FP) detection virtuously reports the progression of lytic replication. We demonstrate that the outcome of HSV-1 infection of compartmentalized primary neurons is determined by viral inoculating dose: high-dose axonal inoculation proceeds to lytic replication, whereas low-dose axonal inoculation establishes a latent HSV-1 infection. Interfering with low-dose axonal inoculation via small molecule drugs reports divergent phenotypes of eYFP and mCherry reporter detection, correlating with altered states of viral gene expression. We report that the transcriptional state of neuronal HSV-1 infection is variable in response to changes in the intracellular neuronal environment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2024


  • HSV-1
  • fluorescent protein
  • latency
  • neuron
  • transcription
  • viral replication

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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