Single-cell transcriptomics identifies Gadd45b as a regulator of herpesvirus-reactivating neurons

EMBO Rep. 2021 Nov 29;e53543. doi: 10.15252/embr.202153543. Online ahead of print.


Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) is a powerful technique for dissecting the complexity of normal and diseased tissues, enabling characterization of cell diversity and heterogeneous phenotypic states in unprecedented detail. However, this technology has been underutilized for exploring the interactions between the host cell and viral pathogens in latently infected cells. Herein, we use scRNA-seq and single-molecule sensitivity fluorescent in situ hybridization (smFISH) technologies to investigate host single-cell transcriptome changes upon the reactivation of a human neurotropic virus, herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1). We identify the stress sensor growth arrest and DNA damage-inducible 45 beta (Gadd45b) as a critical antiviral host factor that regulates HSV-1 reactivation events in a subpopulation of latently infected primary neurons. We show that distinct subcellular localization of Gadd45b correlates with the viral late gene expression program, as well as the expression of the viral transcription factor, ICP4. We propose that a hallmark of a "successful" or "aborted" HSV-1 reactivation state in primary neurons is determined by a unique subcellular localization signature of the stress sensor Gadd45b.

Keywords: Gadd45b; HSV-1; herpes simplex virus-1; viral latency; viral reactivation.