IL-2 and equine chorionic gonadotrophin (eCG) initiated reactivation of equid herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) from venous lymphocytes at a frequency of 1/10(-5). Indirect immunofluorescence showed that > 80% of virus-positive leukocytes were CD5+/CD8+ with the remaining 20% being CD5+/CD8-/CD4-. Cocultivation demonstrated that the reactivated virus was infectious. In addition, virus was reactivated in vitro from leukocytes of > 70% of horses by the mitogens phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) and pokeweed mitogen (PWM). Transfer of supernatants showed that IL-2 and eCG acted indirectly by causing the release of other mediators from adherent cells; these mediators then reactivated EHV-1 from T cells. Blocking experiments with anti-IL-2 showed that PWM and PHA acted via IL-2 but that eCG did not. This is the first clear definition of the lymphoid cells that harbour latent EHV-1 in vivo and correlates with current RT-PCR and in situ hybridization of latency-associated transcripts in lymphocytes. This method of reactivation in vitro can be used to detect horses carrying latent EHV-1 in vivo and also has the potential to dissect the sequence of events involved in reactivation in vitro.


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