Herpes simplex virus with highly reduced gD levels can efficiently enter and spread between human keratinocytes

M. T. Huber, T. W. Wisner, N. R. Hegde, K. A. Goldsmith, D. A. Rauch, R. J. Roller, C. Krummenacher, R. J. Eisenberg, G. H. Cohen, D. C. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


The rapid spread of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) in mucosal epithelia and neuronal tissue depends primarily on the ability of the virus to navigate within polarized cells and the tissues they constitute. To understand HSV entry and the spread of virus across cell junctions, we have previously characterized a human keratinocyte cell line, HaCaT. These cells appear to reflect cells infected in vivo more accurately than many of the cultured cells used to propagate HSV. HSV mutants lacking gE/gI are highly compromised in spread within epithelial and neuronal tissues and also show defects in cell-to-cell spread in HaCaT cells, but not in other, nonpolarized cells. HSV gD is normally considered absolutely essential for entry and cell-to-cell spread, both in cultured cells and in vivo. Here, an HSV-1 gD mutant virus, F-US6kan, was found to efficiently enter HaCaT cells and normal human keratinocytes and could spread from cell to cell without gD provided by complementing cells. By contrast, entry and spread into other cells, especially highly transformed cells commonly used to propagate HSV, were extremely inefficient. Further analyses of F-US6kan indicated that this mutant expressed extraordinarily low (1/500 wild-type) levels of gD. Neutralizing anti-gD monocional antibodies inhibited entry of F-US6kan, suggesting F-US6kan utilized this small amount of gD to enter cells. HaCaT cells expressed high levels of an HSV gD receptor, HveC, and entry of F-US6kan into HaCaT cells could also be inhibited with antibodies specific for HveC. Interestingly, anti-HveC antibodies were not fully able to inhibit entry of wild-type HSV-1 into HaCaT cells. These results help to uncover important properties of HSV and human keratinocytes. HSV, with exceedingly low levels of a crucial receptor-binding glycoprotein, can enter cells expressing high levels of receptor. In this case, surplus gD may be useful to avoid neutralization by anti-gD antibodies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10309-10318
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number21
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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