Viral infection converts the normal functions of a cell to optimize viral replication and virion production. One striking observation of this conversion is the reconfiguration and reorganization of cellular actin, affecting every stage of the viral life cycle, from entry through assembly to egress. The extent and degree of cytoskeletal reorganization varies among different viral infections, suggesting the evolution of myriad viral strategies. In this Review, we describe how the interaction of viral proteins with the cell modulates the structure and function of the actin cytoskeleton to initiate, sustain and spread infections. The molecular biology of such interactions continues to engage virologists in their quest to understand viral replication and informs cell biologists about the role of the cytoskeleton in the uninfected cell.
Pseudorabies virus (PRV) is a neuroinvasive virus of the herpes family that has a broad host range but does not infect higher-order primates. PRV characteristically travels along chains of synaptically connected neurons and has been used extensively for elucidating neural circuits in the peripheral and central nervous system in vivo. The recombinant virus PRV369 is an attenuated retrograde tracer that encodes G-CaMP2, a fluorescent calcium sensor protein that is stable at physiological pH and mammalian temperature. This protocol describes the use of PRV369 to express G-CaMP2 in a neuronal circuit and to monitor its activity in a living animal, specifically in the submandibular ganglia (SMG), the peripheral parasympathetic ganglia that innervate the salivary glands. The procedure describes the delivery of PRV369 to the glands and shows how SMG neurons can then be imaged post-inoculation to explore connectivity and activity.
Alphaherpesviruses are a subfamily of the Herpesviridae that can invade the nervous system and establish either lytic or latent infections. The establishment of latent infection can occur only in neurons, indicating a unique virus-host interaction in these cells. Here, we compare results from seven microarray studies that focused on the host response of either neural tissue or isolated neurons to alphaherpesvirus infection. These studies utilized either herpes simplex virus type 1 or pseudorabies virus as the infectious agent. From these data, we have found common host responses spanning a variety of infection models in different species, with different herpesvirus strains, and during all phases of infection including lytic, latent, and reactivation. The repeated observation of transcriptional effects on these genes and gene families indicates their likely importance in host defenses or the viral infectious process. We discuss the possible role of these different genes and genes families in alphaherpesvirus infection.
Whether all the infectious herpesvirus particles entering a cell are able to replicate and/or express their genomes is not known. Here, we developed a general method to determine the number of viral genomes expressed in an infected cell. We constructed and analysed fluorophore expression from a recombinant pseudorabies virus (PRV263) carrying a Brainbow cassette (Cre-conditional expression of different fluorophores). Using three isogenic strains derived from PRV263, each expressing a single fluorophore, we analysed the colour composition of cells infected with these three viruses at different multiplicities. We estimate that fewer than seven incoming genomes are expressed per cell. In addition, those templates that are expressed are the genomes selected for replication and packaging into virions. This finite limit on the number of viral genomes that can be expressed is an intrinsic property of the infected cell and may be influenced by viral and cellular factors.
Compartmented neuronal cultures allow experimenters to establish separate fluid environments for neuronal axons and the soma from which they emanate. Physical isolation of cell bodies and axons is achieved by culturing neurons in tri-chambered Teflon rings. Dissociated ganglia are plated in one end compartment of the trichamber, and axonal growth is guided underneath watertight silicone grease barriers into a separate compartment. Since the axons and cell bodies are located in different compartments, they can be infected and assayed separately. We describe the assembly and use of compartmented neuronal cultures for in vitro study of directional infection of neurons by alpha herpesviruses. Selective application of viral inoculum to only one compartment ensures that the remainder of the neuron is not contaminated by input inoculum. This allows for quantification of viral spread, and unambiguous interpretation of immunofluorescence and electron microscopy images.
Transneuronal spread of pseudorabies virus (PRV) is a multistep process that requires several virally encoded proteins. Previous studies have shown that PRV glycoprotein B (gB), a component of the viral fusion machinery, is required for the transmission of infection to postsynaptic, second-order neurons. We sought to identify the gB-mediated step in viral transmission. We determined that gB is not required for the sorting of virions into axons of infected neurons, anterograde transport, or the release of virions from the axon. trans or cis expression of gB on the cell surface was not sufficient for transneuronal spread of the virus; instead, efficient incorporation of gB into virions was required. Additionally, neuron-to-cell spread of PRV most likely does not proceed through syncytial connections. We conclude that, upon gB-independent release of virions at the site of neuron-cell contacts, the virion-incorporated gB/gH/gL fusion complex mediates entry into the axonally contacted cell by fusion of the closely apposed membranes.
The study of coordinated activity in neuronal circuits has been challenging without a method to simultaneously report activity and connectivity. Here we present the first use of pseudorabies virus (PRV), which spreads through synaptically connected neurons, to express a fluorescent calcium indicator protein and monitor neuronal activity in a living animal. Fluorescence signals were proportional to action potential number and could reliably detect single action potentials in vitro. With two-photon imaging in vivo, we observed both spontaneous and stimulated activity in neurons of infected murine peripheral autonomic submandibular ganglia (SMG). We optically recorded the SMG response in the salivary circuit to direct electrical stimulation of the presynaptic axons and to physiologically relevant sensory stimulation of the oral cavity. During a time window of 48 hours after inoculation, few spontaneous transients occurred. By 72 hours, we identified more frequent and prolonged spontaneous calcium transients, suggestive of neuronal or tissue responses to infection that influence calcium signaling. Our work establishes in vivo investigation of physiological neuronal circuit activity and subsequent effects of infection with single cell resolution.
Alpha-herpesviruses, including human herpes simplex virus 1 & 2, varicella zoster virus and the swine pseudorabies virus (PRV), infect the peripheral nervous system of their hosts. Symptoms of infection often include itching, numbness, or pain indicative of altered neurological function. To determine if there is an in vitro electrophysiological correlate to these characteristic in vivo symptoms, we infected cultured rat sympathetic neurons with well-characterized strains of PRV known to produce virulent or attenuated symptoms in animals. Whole-cell patch clamp recordings were made at various times after infection. By 8 hours of infection with virulent PRV, action potential (AP) firing rates increased substantially and were accompanied by hyperpolarized resting membrane potentials and spikelet-like events. Coincident with the increase in AP firing rate, adjacent neurons exhibited coupled firing events, first with AP-spikelets and later with near identical resting membrane potentials and AP firing. Small fusion pores between adjacent cell bodies formed early after infection as demonstrated by transfer of the low molecular weight dye, Lucifer Yellow. Later, larger pores formed as demonstrated by transfer of high molecular weight Texas red-dextran conjugates between infected cells. Further evidence for viral-induced fusion pores was obtained by infecting neurons with a viral mutant defective for glycoprotein B, a component of the viral membrane fusion complex. These infected neurons were essentially identical to mock infected neurons: no increased AP firing, no spikelet-like events, and no electrical or dye transfer. Infection with PRV Bartha, an attenuated circuit-tracing strain delayed, but did not eliminate the increased neuronal activity and coupling events. We suggest that formation of fusion pores between infected neurons results in electrical coupling and elevated firing rates, and that these processes may contribute to the altered neural function seen in PRV-infected animals.
The pseudorabies virus (PRV) Us9 protein plays a central role in targeting viral capsids and glycoproteins to axons of dissociated sympathetic neurons. As a result, Us9 null mutants are defective in anterograde transmission of infection in vivo. However, it is unclear how Us9 promotes axonal sorting of so many viral proteins. It is known that the glycoproteins gB, gC, gD and gE are associated with lipid raft microdomains on the surface of infected swine kidney cells and monocytes, and are directed into the axon in a Us9-dependent manner. In this report, we determined that Us9 is associated with lipid rafts, and that this association is critical to Us9-mediated sorting of viral structural proteins. We used infected non-polarized and polarized PC12 cells, a rat pheochromocytoma cell line that acquires many of the characteristics of sympathetic neurons in the presence of nerve growth factor (NGF). In these cells, Us9 is highly enriched in detergent-resistant membranes (DRMs). Moreover, reducing the affinity of Us9 for lipid rafts inhibited anterograde transmission of infection from sympathetic neurons to epithelial cells in vitro. We conclude that association of Us9 with lipid rafts is key for efficient targeting of structural proteins to axons and, as a consequence, for directional spread of PRV from pre-synaptic to post-synaptic neurons and cells of the mammalian nervous system.
Herpesviruses are large double-stranded DNA viruses that replicate in the nuclei of infected cells. Spatial control of viral replication and assembly in the host nucleus is achieved by the establishment of nuclear compartments that serve to concentrate viral and host factors. How these compartments are established and maintained remains poorly understood. Pseudorabies virus (PRV) is an alpha-herpesvirus often used to study herpesvirus invasion and spread in the nervous system. Here, we report that PRV and herpes simplex virus type 1 infection of neurons results in formation of actin filaments in the nucleus. Filamentous actin is not found in the nucleus of uninfected cells. Nuclear actin filaments appear physically associated with the viral capsids, as shown by serial block-face scanning electron micropscopy and confocal microscopy. Using a green fluorescent protein-tagged viral capsid protein (VP26), we show that nuclear actin filaments form prior to capsid assembly and are required for the efficient formation of viral capsid assembly sites. We find that actin polymerization dynamics (e.g., treadmilling) are not necessary for the formation of these sites. Green fluorescent protein-VP26 foci co-localize with the actin motor myosin V, suggesting that viral capsids travel along nuclear actin filaments using myosin-based directed transport. Viral transcription, but not viral DNA replication, is required for actin filament formation. The finding that infection, by either PRV or herpes simplex virus type 1, results in formation of nuclear actin filaments in neurons, and that PRV infection of an epithelial cell line results in a similar phenotype is evidence that F-actin plays a conserved role in herpesvirus assembly. Our results suggest a mechanism by which assembly domains are organized within infected cells and provide insight into how the viral infectious cycle and host actin cytoskeleton are integrated to promote the infection process.
Mammalian alphaherpesviruses normally establish latent infections in ganglia of the peripheral nervous system in their natural hosts. Occasionally, however, these viruses spread to the central nervous system (CNS), where they cause damaging, often fatal, infections. Attenuated alphaherpesvirus derivatives have been used extensively as neuronal circuit tracers in a variety of animal models. Their circuit-specific spread provides a unique paradigm to study the local and global CNS response to infection. Thus, we systematically analyzed the host gene expression profile after acute pseudorabies virus (PRV) infection of the CNS using Affymetrix GeneChip technology. Rats were injected intraocularly with one of three selected virulent and attenuated PRV strains. Relative levels of cellular transcripts were quantified from hypothalamic and cerebellar tissues at various times postinfection. The number of cellular genes responding to infection correlated with the extent of virus dissemination and relative virulence of the PRV strains. A total of 245 out of 8,799 probe sets, corresponding to 182 unique cellular genes, displayed increased expression ranging from 2- to more than 100-fold higher than in uninfected tissue. Over 60% thereof were categorized as immune, proinflammatory, and other cellular defense genes. Additionally, a large fraction of infection-induced transcripts represented cellular stress responses, including glucocorticoid- and redox-related pathways. This is the first comprehensive in vivo analysis of the global transcriptional response of the mammalian CNS to acute alphaherpesvirus infection. The differentially regulated genes reported here are likely to include potential diagnostic and therapeutic targets for viral encephalitides and other neurodegenerative or neuroinflammatory diseases.
The molecular mechanisms responsible for long-distance, directional spread of alphaherpesvirus infections via axons of infected neurons are poorly understood. We describe the use of red and green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusions to capsid and tegument components, respectively, to visualize purified, single extracellular virions and axonal assemblies after pseudorabies virus (PRV) infection of cultured neurons. We observed heterogeneity in GFP fluorescence when GFP was fused to the tegument component VP22 in both single extracellular virions and discrete puncta in infected axons. This heterogeneity was observed in the presence or absence of a capsid structure detected by a fusion of monomeric red fluorescent protein to VP26. The similarity of the heterogeneous distribution of these fluorescent protein fusions in both purified virions and in axons suggested that tegument-capsid assembly and axonal targeting of viral components are linked. One possibility was that the assembly of extracellular and axonal particles containing the dually fluorescent fusion proteins occurred by the same process in the cell body. We tested this hypothesis by treating infected cultured neurons with brefeldin A, a potent inhibitor of herpesvirus maturation and secretion. Brefeldin A treatment disrupted the neuronal secretory pathway, affected fluorescent capsid and tegument transport in the cell body, and blocked subsequent entry into axons of capsid and tegument proteins. Electron microscopy demonstrated that in the absence of brefeldin A treatment, enveloped capsids entered axons, but in the presence of the inhibitor, unenveloped capsids accumulated in the cell body. These results support an assembly process in which PRV capsids acquire a membrane in the cell body prior to axonal entry and subsequent transport.
Despite being a major component of the pseudorabies virus tegument, VP22 is not required for PRV replication, virulence, or neuroinvasion (T. del Rio, H. C. Werner, and L. W. Enquist, J. Virol. 76:774-782, 2002). In the absence of VP22, tegument assembly compensates in a limited fashion with increased incorporation of cellular actin. Infection of epithelial cell lines expressing fluorescent actin fusion proteins resulted in the incorporation of filamentous and nonfilamentous actin into individual virions that were predominately light, noninfectious particles. We conclude that cellular actin is incorporated in the tegument of wild-type virions and is part of a compensation mechanism for VP22-null virions.
Pseudorabies virus (PRV) glycoprotein E (gE) is a type I viral membrane protein that facilitates the anterograde spread of viral infection from the peripheral nervous system to the brain. In animal models, a gE-null mutant infection spreads inefficiently from presynaptic neurons to postsynaptic neurons (anterograde spread of infection). However, the retrograde spread of infection from post- to presynaptic neurons remains unaffected. Here we show that gE is required for wild-type localization of viral structural proteins in axons of infected neurons. During a gE-null PRV infection, a subset of viral glycoproteins, capsids, and tegument proteins enter and localize to the axon inefficiently. This defect is most obvious in the distal axon and growth cones. However, axonal entry and localization of other viral membrane proteins and endogenous cellular proteins remains unaffected. Neurons infected with gE-null mutants produce wild-type levels of viral structural proteins and infectious virions in the cell body. Our results indicate that reduced axonal targeting of viral structural proteins is a compelling explanation for the lack of anterograde spread in neural circuits following infection by a gE-null mutant.
Alphaherpesviruses are parasites of the peripheral nervous system in their natural hosts. After the initial infection of peripheral tissues such as mucosal cells, these neurotropic viruses will invade the peripheral nervous system that innervates the site of infection via long-distance axonal transport of the viral genome. In natural hosts, a latent and a nonproductive infection is usually established in the neuronal cell bodies. Upon reactivation, the newly replicated genome will be assembled into capsids and transported back to the site of entry, where a localized infection of the epithelial or mucosal cells will produce infectious virions that can infect naïve hosts. In this paper, we describe an in vitro method for studying neuron-to-cell spread of alphaherpesviruses using a compartmented culture system. Using pseudorabies virus as a model, we infected neuron cell bodies grown in Teflon chambers and observed spread of infection to nonneuronal cells plated in a different compartment. The cells are in contact with the neurons via axons that penetrate the Teflon barrier. We demonstrate that wild-type neuron-to-cell spread requires intact axons and the presence of gE, gI, and Us9 proteins, but does not require gD. We also provide ultrastructural evidence showing that capsids enclosed within vesicles can be found along the entire length of the axon during viral egress.
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) glycoprotein E (gE) promotes cell-to-cell spread at basolateral surfaces of epithelial cells, but its activity in neurons is less clear. We used the mouse retina infection model and neuronal cell cultures to define the spread phenotype of gE mutant viruses. Wild-type (WT) and gE-null (NS-gEnull) viruses both infected retina ganglion cell neurons; however, NS-gEnull viral antigens failed to reach the optic nerve, which indicates a defect in axonal localization. We evaluated two Fc receptor-negative gE mutant viruses containing four amino acid inserts in the gE ectodomain. One mutant virus failed to spread from the retina into the optic nerve, while the other spread normally. Therefore, the gE ectodomain is involved in axonal localization, and the Fc receptor and neuronal spread are mediated by overlapping but distinct gE domains. In the retina infection model, virus can travel to the brain via the optic nerve from presynaptic to postsynaptic neurons (anterograde direction) or via nerves that innervate the iris and ciliary body from postsynaptic to presynaptic neurons (retrograde direction). WT virus infected the brain by anterograde and retrograde routes, whereas NS-gEnull virus failed to travel by either pathway. The site of the defect in retrograde spread remains to be determined; however, infection of rat superior cervical ganglia neurons in vitro indicates that gE is required to target virion components to the axon initial segment. The requirement for gE in axonal targeting and retrograde spread highlights intriguing similarities and differences between HSV-1 and pseudorabies virus gE.
This chapter discusses the culture of primary sympathetic neurons (superior cervical ganglia) from rat embryos and PC12 cells differentiated into neurons for use in viral infection experiments. Methods are described for the use of a neurotropic herpesvirus, pseudorabies virus (PRV), to analyze the assembly, egress, and transport of viral antigens in neurons.
Pseudorabies virus (PRV) and herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) are distantly related alphaherpesviruses whose natural hosts are pigs and humans, respectively. Adult infections of natural hosts are mild and rarely lethal. However, both viruses are also able to infect other hosts, often with lethal effects. In this report, we use the paradigm of infection of a common permissive cell type and microarray analysis to determine if these two diverse alphaherpesviruses engage similar or different cellular pathways to obtain a common outcome: productive infection. We compared cellular gene expression in growth-arrested, primary rat embryonic fibroblasts that were mock infected or infected with either purified PRV-Becker or HSV-1(F). Infections by either virus affect the transcription of more than 1,500 cellular genes by threefold or more. Few differences are detected early, and the majority of changes occur during the late stages of infection. Remarkably, the transcripts of about 500 genes are regulated in common, while the rest are regulated in a virus-specific manner. Genes whose expression is affected by infection fall into a diverse group of functional classes and cellular pathways. Furthermore, a comparison of the cellular response to HSV-1 infection of primary human and rat fibroblasts revealed unexpected diversity in the transcript profiles.
The core structures of many viruses move within cells by association with host cytoskeletal motor proteins; however, the mechanisms by which intracellular viral particles are transported toward sites of replication or the cell periphery at distinct stages of infection remain to be understood. The regulation of herpesvirus directional transport in sensory neurons was examined by tracking individual viral capsids within axons at multiple frames per s. After entry into axons, capsids underwent bidirectional and saltatory movement to the cell body independently of endosomes. A comparison of entry transport to a previous analysis of capsid axonal transport during egress revealed that capsid targeting in and out of cells occurs by modulation of plus-end, but not minus-end, motion. Entry transport was unperturbed by the presence of egressing virus from a prior infection, indicating that transport direction is not modulated globally by viral gene expression, but rather directly by a component of the viral particle.