Both emerging viruses and well-known viral pathogens endowed with neurotropism can either directly impair neuronal functions or induce physio-pathological changes by diffusing from the periphery through neurosensory-epithelial connections. However, developing a reliable and reproducible in vitro system modeling the connectivity between the different human sensory neurons and peripheral tissues is still a challenge and precludes the deepest comprehension of viral latency and reactivation at the cellular and molecular levels. This study shows a stable topographic neurosensory-epithelial connection on a chip using human stem cell-derived dorsal root ganglia (DRG) organoids. Bulk and single-cell transcriptomics showed that different combinations of key receptors for herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) are expressed by each sensory neuronal cell type. This neuronal-epithelial circuitry enabled a detailed analysis of HSV infectivity, faithfully modeling its dynamics and cell type specificity. The reconstitution of an organized connectivity between human sensory neurons and keratinocytes into microfluidic chips provides a powerful in vitro platform for modeling viral latency and reactivation of human viral pathogens.
Keywords: herpes simplex virus; keratinocytes; latency; microfluidics; organoids; reactivation.