Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version

July 2002


Published in JOURNAL OF VIROLOGY, July 2002, p. 6771–6779 Vol. 76, No. 13. Copyright © 2002, American Society for Microbiology. Used by permission.


Bovine herpesvirus 1 (BHV-1) is an important pathogen of cattle, and infection is usually initiated via the ocular or nasal cavity. Following acute infection, the primary site for BHV-1 latency is the sensory neuron. Reactivation from latency occurs sporadically, resulting in virus shedding and transmission to uninfected cattle. The only abundant viral transcript expressed during latency is the latency-related (LR) RNA, suggesting that it mediates some aspect of latency. An LR mutant was constructed by inserting three stop codons near the beginning of the LR-RNA, suggesting that expression of LR proteins would be altered. The LR mutant grew with wild-type (wt) efficiency in bovine kidney cells (MDBK). When calves were infected with the LR mutant, a dramatic decrease (3 to 4 logs) in ocular, but not nasal, viral shedding occurred during acute infection relative to the wt or the LR-rescued virus (M. Inman, L. Lovato, A. Doster, and C. Jones, J. Virol. 75:8507–8515, 2001). In this study, we examined the latency reactivation cycle in calves infected with the LR mutant and compared these results to those from calves infected with wt BHV-1 or the LR-rescued virus. During acute infection, lower levels of infectious virus were detected in trigeminal ganglion homogenates from calves infected with the LR mutant. As judged by in situ hybridization, BHV-1-positive neurons were detected in trigeminal ganglia of calves infected with the wt but not the LR mutant. Although LR-RNA was detected by reverse transcription-PCR in calves latently infected with the LR mutant, a semiquantitative PCR analysis revealed that lower levels of viral DNA were present in trigeminal ganglia of calves infected with the LR mutant. Dexamethasone treatment of calves latently infected with wt BHV-1 or the LR-rescued virus, but not the LR mutant, consistently induced reactivation from latency, as judged by shedding of infectious virus from the nose or eyes and increases in BHV-1-specific antibodies. In summary, this study demonstrates that wt expression of LR gene products plays an important role in the latency reactivation cycle of BHV-1 in cattle.