Herpes simplex virus type 1 modifies the protein composition of extracellular vesicles to promote neurite outgrowth and neuroinfection


  • G. Sun
  • K.A. Kropp
  • M. Kirchner
  • N. Plückebaum
  • A. Selich
  • M. Serrero
  • A. Dhingra
  • J.R. Cabrera
  • B. Ritter
  • R. Bauerfeind
  • E. Wyler
  • M. Landthaler
  • A. Schambach
  • B. Sodeik
  • P. Mertins
  • A. Viejo-Borbolla


  • mBio


  • mBio 15 (2): e0330823


  • The highly prevalent herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) causes a range of diseases, including cold sores, blinding keratitis, and life-threatening encephalitis. HSV-1 initially replicates in epithelial cells, enters the peripheral nervous system via neurites, and establishes lifelong infection in the neuronal cell bodies. Neurites are highly dynamic structures that grow or retract in response to attractive or repulsive cues, respectively. Here, we show that infection with HSV-1, but not with a mutant virus lacking glycoprotein G (gG), reduced the repulsive effect of epithelial cells on neurite outgrowth and facilitated HSV-1 invasion of neurons. HSV-1 gG was required and sufficient to induce neurite outgrowth by modifying the protein composition of extracellular vesicles, increasing the amount of neurotrophic and neuroprotective proteins, including galectin-1. Antibodies directed against galectin-1 neutralized the capacity of extracellular vesicles released from HSV-1-infected cells to promote neurite outgrowth. Our study provides new insights into the neurotropism of HSV-1 and identifies a viral protein that modifies the protein composition of extracellular vesicles to stimulate neurite outgrowth and invasion of the nervous system.IMPORTANCEHerpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) must infect neurites (or nerve endings) to establish a chronic infection in neurons. Neurites are highly dynamic structures that retract or grow in the presence of repulsive or attractive proteins. Some of these proteins are released by epithelial cells in extracellular vesicles and act upon interaction with their receptor present on neurites. We show here that HSV-1 infection of epithelial cells modulated their effect on neurites, increasing neurite growth. Mechanistically, HSV-1 glycoprotein G (gG) modifies the protein composition of extracellular vesicles released by epithelial cells, increasing the amount of attractive proteins that enhance neurite outgrowth and facilitate neuronal infection. These results could inform of therapeutic strategies to block HSV-1 induction of neurite outgrowth and, thereby, neuronal infection.