Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) deficiency is typical of almost all resident cells in normal neural tissue. However, CD8+ T cells, which recognize antigenic peptides in the context of class I MHC molecules, are known to mediate clearance of herpes simplex virus (HSV) from spinal ganglia of experimentally infected mice, leading to the hypothesis that class I expression in the peripheral nervous system must be upregulated in response to HSV infection. In addressing this hypothesis it is shown, in BALB/c (H-2d) mice, that normally deficient class I transcripts transiently accumulate in peripheral nerve Schwann cells, ganglionic satellite cells, and primary sensory neurons, indicating that in each of these cell types class I expression is regulated at the transcriptional level in vivo. Furthermore, for 3-4 wk after infection, H-2Kd/Dd antigens are expressed by satellite and Schwann cells but not neurons, suggesting additional posttranscriptional regulation of class I synthesis in neurons. Alternatively, the class I RNAs induced in neurons may not be derived from classical class I genes. Factors regulating H-2 class I expression emanate from within infected ganglia, probably from infected neurons themselves. However, induction of class I molecules was not maintained during latency, when viral gene expression in neurons is restricted to a single region within the virus repeats. These data have implications for the long-term survival of cells in HSV-infected neural tissue.

This content is only available as a PDF.