Deletion of the Transcriptional Coactivator HCF-1 In Vivo Impairs the Removal of Repressive Heterochromatin from Latent HSV Genomes and Suppresses the Initiation of Viral Reactivation

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mBio 2023 Jan 24;e0354222. doi: 10.1128/mbio.03542-22. Online ahead of print.

Deletion of the Transcriptional Coactivator HCF-1 In Vivo Impairs the Removal of Repressive Heterochromatin from Latent HSV Genomes and Suppresses the Initiation of Viral Reactivation

Jesse H Arbuckle, Jodi L Vogel, Stacey Efstathiou, Thomas M Kristie

Laboratory of Viral Diseases, Division of Intramural Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Service type: Knock-in mice


Transcription of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) immediate early (IE) genes is controlled at multiple levels by the cellular transcriptional coactivator, HCF-1. HCF-1 is complexed with epigenetic factors that prevent silencing of the viral genome upon infection, transcription factors that drive initiation of IE gene expression, and transcription elongation factors required to circumvent RNAPII pausing at IE genes and promote productive IE mRNA synthesis. Significantly, the coactivator is also implicated in the control of viral reactivation from latency in sensory neurons based on studies that demonstrate that HCF-1-associated epigenetic and transcriptional elongation complexes are critical to initiate IE expression and viral reactivation. Here, an HCF-1 conditional knockout mouse model (HCF-1cKO) was derived to probe the role and significance of HCF-1 in the regulation of HSV-1 latency/reactivation in vivo. Upon deletion of HCF-1 in sensory neurons, there is a striking reduction in the number of latently infected neurons that initiate viral reactivation. Importantly, this correlated with a defect in the removal of repressive chromatin associated with latent viral genomes. These data demonstrate that HCF-1 is a critical regulatory factor that governs the initiation of HSV reactivation, in part, by promoting the transition of latent viral genomes from a repressed heterochromatic state. IMPORTANCE Herpes simplex virus is responsible for a substantial worldwide disease burden. An initial infection leads to the establishment of a lifelong persistent infection in sensory neurons. Periodic reactivation can result in recurrent oral and genital lesions to more significant ocular disease. Despite the significance of this pathogen, many of the regulatory factors and molecular mechanisms that govern the viral latency-reactivation cycles have yet to be elucidated. Initiation of both lytic infection and reactivation are dependent on the expression of the viral immediate early genes. In vivo deletion of a central component of the IE regulatory paradigm, the cellular transcriptional coactivator HCF-1, reduces the epigenetic transition of latent viral genomes, thus suppressing HSV reactivation. These observations define HCF-1 as a critical regulator that controls the initiation of HSV reactivation from latency in vivo and contribute to understanding of the molecular mechanisms that govern viral reactivation.

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

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