The degradation of herpes simplex virus particles after uptake by phagocytes was studied, but, since lysis of the phagocyte also resulted in damage to the viral envelope, measurement of viral infectivity as a criterion of viral degradation after phagocytosis was not possible. Therefore we focused on later events in viral destruction, namely the degradation of macromolecules. We have demonstrated that polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN) and monocytes (MN) can rapidly degrade the membrane proteins of the phagocytosed herpesvirus virions. PMN and MN from a patient with chronic granulomatous disease showed a similar rate of degradation compared to PMN and MN from healthy donors, which excludes an important role for toxic oxygen species in viral protein degradation. Experiments using toxic oxygen species-generating systems supported this observation. In contrast to PMN, MN are also effective in the digestion of viral DNA. We conclude that PMN and MN are able to neutralize large amounts of phagocytosed HSV, so their role in antiviral defence has again been demonstrated.


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