Early-life infections and associated neuroinflammation is incriminated in the pathogenesis of various mood disorders. Infection with human roseoloviruses, HHV-6A and HHV-6B, allows viral latency in the central nervous system and other tissues, which can later be activated causing cognitive and behavioral disturbances. Hence, this study was designed to evaluate possible association of HHV-6A and HHV-6B activation with three different groups of psychiatric patients. DNA qPCR, immunofluorescence and FISH studies were carried out in post-mortem posterior cerebellum from 50 cases each of bipolar disorder (BPD), schizophrenia, 15 major depressive disorder (MDD) and 50 appropriate control samples obtained from two well-known brain collections (Stanley Medical Research Institute). HHV-6A and HHV-6B late proteins (indicating active infection) and viral DNA were detected more frequently (p < 0.001 for each virus) in human cerebellum in MDD and BPD relative to controls. These roseolovirus proteins and DNA were found less frequently in schizophrenia cases. Active HHV-6A and HHV-6B infection in cerebellar Purkinje cells were detected frequently in BPD and MDD cases. Furthermore, we found a significant association of HHV-6A infection with reduced Purkinje cell size, suggesting virus-mediated abnormal Purkinje cell function in these disorders. Finally, gene expression analysis of cerebellar tissue revealed changes in pathways reflecting an inflammatory response possibly to HHV-6A infection. Our results provide molecular evidence to support a role for active HHV-6A and HHV-6B infection in BPD and MDD.
Keywords: HHV-6; Purkinje cells; bipolar disorder; major depressive disorder; schizophrenia.