We used a herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 ribonucleotide reductase (RR) null mutant (ICP6Δ) to study the role of HSV-1 RR in ocular HSV infections. We found that ICP6Δ was unable to induce vascularization of the cornea or stromal keratitis following inoculation into the cornea of BALB/c mice, but was able to induce a transient mild blepharitis. The parental strain (HSV-1 KOS) and a revertant of ICP6Δ, ICP6Δ 3.1, both caused severe ocular disease, indicating that HSV-1 RR is required for ocular virulence in mice. ICP6Δ grew poorly (Vero and BALB/c 3T3 fibroblasts) and (eye, trigeminal ganglia and brain) compared to ICP6Δ3.1 and HSV-1 KOS, suggesting that the avirulence of ICP6Δ is due to poor growth in the host. ICP6Δ also grew less well in primary human corneal fibroblasts, suggesting that RR may be required for virulence in humans. These results indicate that drugs inhibiting the function of RR might be effective in treating ocular HSV infections.


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