The herpes simplex virus latency-associated transcript gene is associated with a broader repertoire of virus-specific exhausted CD8+ T cells retained within the trigeminal ganglia of latently infected HLA transgenic rabbits.
- HIV Clinical and Translational Research
UNLABELLED: Persistent pathogens, such as herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), have evolved a variety of immune evasion strategies to avoid being detected and destroyed by the host's immune system. A dynamic cross talk appears to occur between the HSV-1 latency-associated transcript (LAT), the only viral gene that is abundantly transcribed during latency, and the CD8(+)T cells that reside in HSV-1 latently infected human and rabbit trigeminal ganglia (TG). The reactivation phenotype of TG that are latently infected with wild-type HSV-1 or with LAT-rescued mutant (i.e., LAT(+)TG) is significantly higher than TG latently infected with LAT-null mutant (i.e., LAT(-)TG). Whether LAT promotes virus reactivation by selectively shaping a unique repertoire of HSV-specific CD8(+)T cells in LAT(+)TG is unknown. In the present study, we assessed the frequency, function, and exhaustion status of TG-resident CD8(+)T cells specific to 40 epitopes derived from HSV-1 gB, gD, VP11/12, and VP13/14 proteins, in human leukocyte antigen (HLA-A*0201) transgenic rabbits infected ocularly with LAT(+)versus LAT(-)virus. Compared to CD8(+)T cells from LAT(-)TG, CD8(+)T cells from LAT(+)TG (i) recognized a broader selection of nonoverlapping HSV-1 epitopes, (ii) expressed higher levels of PD-1, TIM-3, and CTLA-4 markers of exhaustion, and (iii) produced less tumor necrosis factor alpha, gamma interferon, and granzyme B. These results suggest a novel immune evasion mechanism by which the HSV-1 LAT may contribute to the shaping of a broader repertoire of exhausted HSV-specific CD8(+)T cells in latently infected TG, thus allowing for increased viral reactivation. IMPORTANCE: A significantly larger repertoire of dysfunctional (exhausted) HSV-specific CD8(+)T cells were found in the TG of HLA transgenic rabbits latently infected with wild-type HSV-1 or with LAT-rescued mutant (i.e., LAT(+)TG) than in a more restricted repertoire of functional HSV-specific CD8(+)T cells in the TG of HLA transgenic rabbits latently infected with LAT-null mutant (i.e., LAT(-)TG). These findings suggest that the HSV-1 LAT locus interferes with the host cellular immune response by shaping a broader repertoire of exhausted HSV-specific CD8(+)T cells within the latency/reactivation TG site.