Herpes simplex virus–1 (HSV-1) is the most common cause of sporadic viral encephalitis, which can be lethal or result in severe neurological defects even with antiviral therapy. While HSV-1 causes encephalitis in spite of HSV-1–specific humoral and cellular immunity, the mechanism by which HSV-1 evades the immune system in the central nervous system (CNS) remains unknown. Here we describe a strategy by which HSV-1 avoids immune targeting in the CNS. The HSV-1 UL13 kinase promotes evasion of HSV-1–specific CD8+ T cell accumulation in infection sites by downregulating expression of the CD8+ T cell attractant chemokine CXCL9 in the CNS of infected mice, leading to increased HSV-1 mortality due to encephalitis. Direct injection of CXCL9 into the CNS infection site enhanced HSV-1–specific CD8+ T cell accumulation, leading to marked improvements in the survival of infected mice. This previously uncharacterized strategy for HSV-1 evasion of CD8+ T cell accumulation in the CNS has important implications for understanding the pathogenesis and clinical treatment of HSV-1 encephalitis.
Naoto Koyanagi, Takahiko Imai, Keiko Shindo, Ayuko Sato, Wataru Fujii, Takeshi Ichinohe, Naoki Takemura, Shigeru Kakuta, Satoshi Uematsu, Hiroshi Kiyono, Yuhei Maruzuru, Jun Arii, Akihisa Kato, Yasushi Kawaguchi