Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) must overcome epidermal barriers to reach its receptors on keratinocytes and initiate infection in human skin. The cell-adhesion molecule nectin-1, which is expressed in human epidermis, acts as an efficient receptor for HSV-1 but is not within reach of the virus upon exposure of human skin under nonpathological conditions. Atopic dermatitis skin, however, can provide an entry portal for HSV-1 emphasizing the role of impaired barrier functions. Here, we explored how epidermal barriers impact HSV-1 invasion in human epidermis and influence the accessibility of nectin-1 for the virus. Using human epidermal equivalents, we observed a correlation of the number of infected cells with tight-junction formation, suggesting that mature tight junctions prior to formation of the stratum corneum prevent viral access to nectin-1. Consequently, impaired epidermal barriers driven by Th2-inflammatory cytokines interleukin 4 (IL-4) and IL-13 as well as the genetic predisposition of nonlesional atopic dermatitis keratinocytes correlated with enhanced infection supporting the impact of functional tight junctions for preventing infection in human epidermis. Comparable to E-cadherin, nectin-1 was distributed throughout the epidermal layers and localized just underneath the tight-junctions. While nectin-1 was evenly distributed on primary human keratinocytes in culture, the receptor was enriched at lateral surfaces of basal and suprabasal cells during differentiation. Nectin-1 showed no major redistribution in the thickened atopic dermatitis and IL-4/IL-13-treated human epidermis in which HSV-1 can invade. However, nectin-1 localization toward tight junction components changed, suggesting that defective tight-junction barriers make nectin-1 accessible for HSV-1 which enables facilitated viral penetration. IMPORTANCE Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) is a widely distributed human pathogen which productively infects epithelia. The open question is which barriers of the highly protected epithelia must the virus overcome to reach its receptor nectin-1. Here, we used human epidermal equivalents to understand how physical barrier formation and nectin-1 distribution contribute to successful viral invasion. Inflammation-induced barrier defects led to facilitated viral penetration strengthening the role of functional tight-junctions in hindering viral access to nectin-1 that is localized just underneath tight junctions and distributed throughout all layers. We also found nectin-1 ubiquitously localized in the epidermis of atopic dermatitis and IL-4/IL-13-treated human skin implying that impaired tight-junctions in combination with a defective cornified layer allow the accessibility of nectin-1 to HSV-1. Our results support that successful invasion of HSV-1 in human skin relies on defective epidermal barriers, which not only include a dysfunctional cornified layer but also depend on impaired tight junctions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Insect Science