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Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Us3 Gene Deletion Influences Toll-like Receptor Responses in Cultured Monocytic Cells

Piritta Peri1, Riikka K Mattila2, Helena Kantola1, Eeva Broberg1, Heidi S Karttunen1, Matti Waris1, Tytti Vuorinen1 and Veijo Hukkanen12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Virology, University of Turku, Kiinamyllynkatu 13, 20520 Turku, Finland

2 Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Oulu, Aapistie 5A, 90014 Oulu, Finland

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Virology Journal 2008, 5:140  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-5-140

Published: 21 November 2008



Toll-like receptors have a key role in innate immune response to microbial infection. The toll-like receptor (TLR) family consists of ten identified human TLRs, of which TLR2 and TLR9 have been shown to initiate innate responses to herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and TLR3 has been shown to be involved in defence against severe HSV-1 infections of the central nervous system. However, no significant activation of the TLR3 pathways has been observed in wild type HSV-1 infections. In this work, we have studied the TLR responses and effects on TLR gene expression by HSV-1 with Us3 and ICP4 gene deletions, which also subject infected cells to apoptosis in human monocytic (U937) cell cultures.


U937 human monocytic cells were infected with the Us3 and ICP4 deletion herpes simplex virus (d120), its parental virus HSV-1 (KOS), the Us3 deletion virus (R7041), its rescue virus (R7306) or wild type HSV-1 (F). The mRNA expression of TLR2, TLR3, TLR4, TLR9 and type I interferons (IFN) were analyzed by quantitative real-time PCR. The intracellular expression of TLR3 and type I IFN inducible myxovirus resistance protein A (MxA) protein as well as the level of apoptosis were analyzed by flow cytometry. We observed that the mRNA expression of TLR3 and type I IFNs were significantly increased in d120, R7041 and HSV-1 (F)-infected U937 cells. Moreover, the intracellular expression of TLR3 and MxA were significantly increased in d120 and R7041-infected cells. We observed activation of IRF-3 in infections with d120 and R7041. The TLR4 mRNA expression level was significantly decreased in d120 and R7041-infected cells but increased in HSV-1 (KOS)-infected cells in comparison with uninfected cells. No significant difference in TLR2 or TLR9 mRNA expression levels was seen. Both the R7041 and d120 viruses were able to induce apoptosis in U937 cell cultures.


The levels of TLR3 and type I IFN mRNA were increased in d120, R7041 and HSV-1 (F)-infected cells when compared with uninfected cells. Also IRF-3 was activated in cells infected with the Us3 gene deletion viruses d120 and R7041. This is consistent with activation of TLR3 signaling in the cells. The intracellular TLR3 and type I IFN inducible MxA protein levels were increased in d120 and R7041-infected cells but not in cells infected with the corresponding parental or rescue viruses, suggesting that the HSV-1 Us3 gene is involved in control of TLR3 responses in U937 cells.