Journal: Journal Of Virology, Volume 94, Issue 15, Jul 2020
During all stages of infection, herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) expresses viral microRNAs (miRNAs). There are at least 20 confirmed HSV-1 miRNAs, yet the roles of individual miRNAs in the context of viral infection remain largely uncharacterized. We constructed a recombinant virus lacking the sequences for miR-H1-5p and miR-H6-3p (17dmiR-H1/H6). The seed sequences for these miRNAs are antisense to each other and are transcribed from divergent noncoding RNAs in the latency-associated transcript (LAT) promoter region. Comparing phenotypes exhibited by the recombinant virus lacking these miRNAs to the wild type (17syn+), we found that during acute infection in cell culture, 17dmiR-H1/H6 exhibited a modest increase in viral yields. Analysis of pathogenesis in the mouse following footpad infection revealed a slight increase in virulence for 17dmiR-H1/H6 but no significant difference in the establishment or maintenance of latency. Strikingly, explant of latently infected dorsal root ganglia revealed a decreased and delayed reactivation phenotype. Further, 17dmiR-H1/H6 was severely impaired in epinephrine-induced reactivation in the rabbit ocular model. Finally, we demonstrated that deletion of miR-H1/H6 increased the accumulation of the LAT as well as several of the LAT region miRNAs. These results suggest that miR-H1/H6 plays an important role in facilitating efficient reactivation from latency.IMPORTANCE While HSV antivirals reduce the severity and duration of clinical disease in some individuals, there is no vaccine or cure. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms regulating latency and reactivation as a potential to elucidate targets for better therapeutics is important. There are at least 20 confirmed HSV-1 miRNAs, yet the roles of individual miRNAs in the context of viral infection remain largely uncharacterized. The present study focuses on two of the miRNAs (miR-H1/H6) that are encoded within the latency-associated transcript (LAT) region, a portion of the genome that has been associated with efficient reactivation. Here, we demonstrate that the deletion of the seed sequences of these miRNAs results in a severe reduction in reactivation of HSV-1 in the mouse and rabbit models. These results suggest a linkage between these miRNAs and reactivation.