To clarify the biological role of US3 protein kinase of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) in vivo, the expression of the viral antigen, the appearance of apoptotic bodies and DNA fragmentation were examined immunohistologically after corneal infection of mice with three different kinds of HSV-2 strain 186: the wild-type virus, a US3-deficient mutant (L1BR1) and its revertant (L1B-11). In both wild-type 186- and L1B-11-infected mice, viral antigen was diffusely found in the corneal epithelium; no apoptotic changes were detected in the epithelial cells. Whereas, in L1BR1-infected mice, HSV-immunoreactivity was localized around the virus-inoculated sites, and a large number of apoptotic bodies were observed in the corneal epithelium with dual-positive reactions for both HSV-immunostaining and TUNEL staining. These results suggest that the US3 protein kinase plays an important role in protecting HSV-2-infected cells from apoptotic death in vivo.


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