The effect of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection on the frequency of mutations at the hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyl transferase (HGPRT) locus was studied in the non-permissive XC cell line. When the cells were infected with 20 to 800 p.f.u./cell, there was initially a lag in cell growth and cell death, but after 4 days there was no difference in growth rate between infected and control cultures. However, the mutation frequency, as determined by the number of 6-thioguanine-resistant colonies, was increased in infected cultures by factors ranging from 2.5 to 10.3. This effect was found to be dependent on the multiplicity of infection. The maximum effect was obtained between 20 and 100 p.f.u./cell while further increase in the amount of virus resulted in a drop in the yield of mutants. The optimum multiplicity of infection was a reproducible characteristic but was variable between viral stocks. When a number of mutant clones were examined they were found to have HGPRT activities ranging from undetectable to 6.9% of wild-type, indicating that the mutations were in the HGPRT gene. These results show that, in a non-productive infection, HSV-2 particles can increase the mutation frequency. The possible mechanisms by which this effect is brought about in the host genome are discussed.


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