Pathogenetic studies of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) strains ANG and its mouse brain-passaged descendant ANG path revealed no difference in neurovirulence but a significant difference in neuroinvasiveness. Thus, both viruses induced a fatal encephalitis in mice after direct injection into the brain, but only ANG path induced lethal neurologic disease after inoculation on rear footpads. The difference in neuroinvasiveness is not related to the capacity to replicate in mouse neural tissues or mouse cells in general, but is specifically related to virus entry into the peripheral nervous system in the footpad. Marker rescue experiments in which ANG path genes were used to confer neuroinvasiveness on ANG indicated that the gene that codes for glycoprotein D (gD) is responsible for the phenotypic difference. Analyses of the gD genes by dideoxy-sequencing techniques identified a base difference in the coding sequences and predicted that the ANG gD gene codes for alanine (GCC codon) at amino acid position 84 in the open reading frame and the ANG path gD gene codes for glycine (GGC codon) at this site. Using these data, an oligonucleotide probe predicted to be specific for the ANG path gD gene was prepared, and in Southern blot analyses, this probe revealed that neuroinvasiveness-rescued agents had incorporated the base change seen in the ANG path gD gene. We conclude that HSV-1 glycoprotein D functions to effect neuroinvasiveness and we discuss potential mechanisms that may be involved.

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