Recurrent herpes simplex virus-1 infection induces hallmarks of neurodegeneration and cognitive deficits in mice

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Abstract

Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is a DNA neurotropic virus, usually establishing latent infections in the trigeminal ganglia followed by periodic reactivations. Although numerous findings suggested potential links between HSV-1 and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a causal relation has not been demonstrated yet. Hence, we set up a model of recurrent HSV-1 infection in mice undergoing repeated cycles of viral reactivation. By virological and molecular analyses we found: i) HSV-1 spreading and replication in different brain regions after thermal stress-induced virus reactivations; ii) accumulation of AD hallmarks including amyloid-β protein, tau hyperphosphorylation, and neuroinflammation markers (astrogliosis, IL-1β and IL-6). Remarkably, the progressive accumulation of AD molecular biomarkers in neocortex and hippocampus of HSV-1 infected mice, triggered by repeated virus reactivations, correlated with increasing cognitive deficits becoming irreversible after seven cycles of reactivation. Collectively, our findings provide evidence that mild and recurrent HSV-1 infections in the central nervous system produce an AD-like phenotype and suggest that they are a risk factor for AD.

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De Chiara, G., Piacentini, R., Fabiani, M., Mastrodonato, A., Marcocci, M. E., Limongi, D., … Palamara, A. T. (2019). Recurrent herpes simplex virus-1 infection induces hallmarks of neurodegeneration and cognitive deficits in mice. PLoS Pathogens, 15(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1007617

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