Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 infects Langerhans cells and the novel epidermal dendritic cell, Epi-cDC2s, via different entry pathways

PLoS Pathog. 2021 Apr 27;17(4):e1009536. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1009536. eCollection 2021 Apr.


Skin mononuclear phagocytes (MNPs) provide the first interactions of invading viruses with the immune system. In addition to Langerhans cells (LCs), we recently described a second epidermal MNP population, Epi-cDC2s, in human anogenital epidermis that is closely related to dermal conventional dendritic cells type 2 (cDC2) and can be preferentially infected by HIV. Here we show that in epidermal explants topically infected with herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), both LCs and Epi-cDC2s interact with HSV-1 particles and infected keratinocytes. Isolated Epi-cDC2s support higher levels of infection than LCs in vitro, inhibited by acyclovir, but both MNP subtypes express similar levels of the HSV entry receptors nectin-1 and HVEM, and show similar levels of initial uptake. Using inhibitors of endosomal acidification, actin and cholesterol, we found that HSV-1 utilises different entry pathways in each cell type. HSV-1 predominantly infects LCs, and monocyte-derived MNPs, via a pH-dependent pathway. In contrast, Epi-cDC2s are mainly infected via a pH-independent pathway which may contribute to the enhanced infection of Epi-cDC2s. Both cells underwent apoptosis suggesting that Epi-cDC2s may follow the same dermal migration and uptake by dermal MNPs that we have previously shown for LCs. Thus, we hypothesize that the uptake of HSV and infection of Epi-cDC2s will stimulate immune responses via a different pathway to LCs, which in future may help guide HSV vaccine development and adjuvant targeting.

Grant support

A.L.C. received project grant 1163748 and investigator grant 1177942 from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, URL: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.