A Single Herpes Simplex Virus 1 Genome Reactivates from Individual Cells

Dor Rafael, Enosh Tomer, Oren Kobiler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Latent infection is a characteristic feature of herpesviruses’ life cycle. Herpes simplex virus 1 is a common human pathogen that establishes lifelong latency in peripheral neurons. Symptomatic or asymptomatic periodic reactivations from the latent state allow the virus to replicate and spread among individuals. The latent viral genomes are found as several quiescent episomes inside the infected nuclei; however, it is not clear if and how many latent genomes are able to reactivate together. To address this question, we developed a quiescent infection assay, which provides a quantitative analysis of the number of genomes reactivating per cell, in cultured immortalized fibroblasts. We found that, almost always, only one viral genome reactivates per cell. We showed that different timing of entry to quiescence did not result in a significant change in the probability of reactivating. Reactivation from this quiescent state allowed only limited intergenomic recombination between two viral strains compared to lytic infection. Following coinfection with a mutant that is unable to reactivate, only coreactivation with a reactivation-proficient recombinant can provide the opportunity for the mutant to reactivate. We speculate that each individual quiescent viral genome has a low and stochastic chance to reactivate in each cell, an assumption that can explain the limited number of genomes reactivating per cell.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMicrobiology spectrum
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • fluorescence
  • genetic recombination
  • herpes simplex virus
  • herpesviruses
  • quiescent infection

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Genetics
  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology
  • Ecology


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