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Infected peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) effectively transport equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1), but not EHV-4, to endothelial cells (EC) lining the blood vessels of the pregnant uterus or central nervous system, a process that can result in abortion or myeloencephalopathy. We examined, using a dynamic in vitro model, the differences between EHV-1 and EHV-4 infection of PBMC and PBMC-EC interactions. In order to evaluate viral transfer between infected PBMC and EC, cocultivation assays were performed. Only EHV-1 was transferred from PBMC to EC, and viral glycoprotein B (gB) was shown to be mainly responsible for this form of cell-to-cell transfer. For addressing the more dynamic aspects of PBMC-EC interaction, infected PBMC were perfused through a flow channel containing EC in the presence of neutralizing antibodies. By simulating capillary blood flow and analyzing the behavior of infected PBMC through live fluorescence imaging and automated cell tracking, we observed that EHV-1 was able to maintain tethering and rolling of infected PBMC on EC more effectively than EHV-4. Deletion of US3 reduced the ability of infected PBMC to tether and roll compared to that of cells infected with parental virus, which resulted in a significant reduction in virus transfer from PBMC to EC. Taking the results together, we conclude that systemic spread and EC infection by EHV-1, but not EHV-4, is caused by its ability to infect and/or reprogram mononuclear cells with respect to their tethering and rolling behavior on EC and consequent virus transfer.
EHV-1 is widespread throughout the world and causes substantial economic losses through outbreaks of respiratory disease, abortion, and myeloencephalopathy. Despite many years of research, no fully protective vaccines have been developed, and several aspects of viral pathogenesis still need to be uncovered. In the current study, we investigated the molecular mechanisms that facilitate the cell-associated viremia, which is arguably the most important aspect of EHV-1 pathogenesis. The newly discovered functions of gB and pUS3 add new facets to their previously reported roles. Due to the conserved nature of cell-associated viremia among numerous herpesviruses, these results are also very relevant for viruses such as varicella-zoster virus, pseudorabies virus, human cytomegalovirus, and others. In addition, the constructed mutant and recombinant viruses exhibit potent in vitro replication but have significant defects in certain stages of the disease course. These viruses therefore show much promise as candidates for future live vaccines.