Varicella-zoster virus gene expression in latently infected and explanted human ganglia

P G Kennedy, E Grinfeld, J E Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A consistent feature of varicella-zoster virus (VZV) latency is the restricted pattern of viral gene expression in human ganglionic tissues. To understand further the significance of this gene restriction, we used in situ hybridization (ISH) to detect the frequency of RNA expression for nine VZV genes in trigeminal ganglia (TG) from 35 human subjects, including 18 who were human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive. RNA for VZV gene 21 was detected in 7 of 11 normal and 6 of 10 HIV-positive subjects, RNA for gene 29 was detected in 5 of 14 normal and 11 of 11 HIV-positive subjects, RNA for gene 62 was detected in 4 of 10 normal and 6 of 9 HIV-positive subjects, and RNA for gene 63 was detected in 8 of 17 normal and 12 of 15 HIV-positive subjects. RNA for VZV gene 4 was detected in 2 of 13 normal and 4 of 9 HIV-positive subjects, and RNA for gene 18 was detected in 4 of 15 normal and 5 of 15 HIV-positive subjects. By contrast, RNAs for VZV genes 28, 40, and 61 were rarely or never detected. In addition, immunocytochemical analysis detected the presence of VZV gene 63-encoded protein in five normal and four HIV-positive subjects. VZV RNA was also analyzed in explanted fresh human TG and dorsal root ganglia from five normal human subjects over a period of up to 11 days in culture. We found a very different pattern of gene expression in these explants, with transcripts for VZV genes 18, 28, 29, 40, and 63 all frequently detected, presumably as a result of viral reactivation. Taken together, these data provide further support for the notion of significant and restricted viral gene expression in VZV latency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11893-8
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2000


  • Adult
  • Female
  • Ganglia
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral
  • Herpes Zoster
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA, Viral


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