Herpes simplex virus 1 causes recurrent diseases by reactivating from latency, which requires the viral thymidine kinase (TK) gene. An acyclovir-resistant mutation in TK, V204G, was previously repeatedly identified in a patient with recurrent herpetic keratitis. We found that compared with its parental strain KOS, a laboratory-derived V204G mutant virus was impaired in replication in cultured neurons despite little defect in non-neuronal cells. After corneal inoculation of mice, V204G exhibited defects in ocular replication that were modest over the first three days but severe afterward. Acute replication of V204G in trigeminal ganglia was significantly impaired. However, V204G established latency with viral loads as high as KOS and reactivated with high frequency albeit reduced kinetics. Acyclovir treatment that drastically decreased ocular and ganglionic replication of KOS had little effect on V204G. Thus, despite reduced neuronal replication due to impaired TK activity, this clinically relevant drug-resistant mutant can efficiently establish reactivatable latency.
Keywords: Drug resistance; HSV-1; Latent infection; Reactivation; Thymidine kinase.
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