Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) is a prevalent neurotropic virus that persists for the host’s lifetime due to HSV-1 establishing latency in sensory neurons. During latency, the only abundantly transcribed HSV-1 gene is the latency-associated transcript (LAT), which is processed into the 1.5kb or 2.0kb major LAT intron and several microRNAs. These latency-associated non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) have been reported to impact the establishment, maintenance and reactivation from latency. However, the molecular mechanisms of these ncRNAs are not fully characterised, especially in the context of human neurons.

This study investigated how the latency-associated ncRNAs affect the human neuronal transcriptome. We developed an experimental system to deliver the latency-associated ncRNAs to human neurons, differentiated from SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells. The cells were infected with a replication-defective HSV-1 mutant, in1382, that establishes a quiescent infection in which LAT is strongly expressed. Alternatively, we utilised lentiviruses engineered to express the first 3.1kb of LAT, without or with mutations in splice sites that prevents splicing of the major LAT intron, or five HSV-1 microRNAs, shown to be abundant in latently infected human ganglia. Following RNA-Seq of uninfected versus infected or transduced SH-SY5Y cells, we identified 178 host genes that had significant differential expression in response to in1382 quiescent infection and lentivirus delivery of LAT or the latency-associated microRNAs. A subset of these were validated by PCR. This work provides insight into possible roles of the latency-associated ncRNAs in neuronal cell biology and latency that could aid future investigations examining how HSV-1 latency affects human neurons.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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