Gammaherpesvirus colonization of the spleen requires lytic replication in B cells

Clara Lawler, Marta Pires de Miranda, Janet May, Orry Wyer, J. Pedro Simas, Philip G. Stevenson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Gammaherpesviruses infect lymphocytes and cause lymphocytic cancers. Murid herpesvirus-4 (MuHV-4), Epstein-Barr virus, and Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus all infect B cells. Latent infection can spread by B cell recirculation and proliferation, but whether this alone achieves systemic infection is unclear. To test the need of MuHV-4 for lytic infection in B cells, we flanked its essential ORF50 lytic transactivator with loxP sites and then infected mice expressing B cell-specific Cre (CD19-Cre). The floxed virus replicated normally in Cre- mice. In CD19-Cre mice, nasal and lymph node infections were maintained; but there was little splenomegaly, and splenic virus loads remained low. Cre-mediated removal of other essential lytic genes gave a similar phenotype. CD19-Cre spleen infection by intraperitoneal virus was also impaired. Therefore, MuHV-4 had to emerge lytically from B cells to colonize the spleen. An important role for B cell lytic infection in host colonization is consistent with the large CD8+ T cell responses made to gammaherpesvirus lytic antigens during infectious mononucleosis and suggests that vaccine-induced immunity capable of suppressing B cell lytic infection might reduce long-term virus loads.IMPORTANCE Gammaherpesviruses cause B cell cancers. Most models of host colonization derive from cell cultures with continuous, virus-driven B cell proliferation. However, vaccines based on these models have worked poorly. To test whether proliferating B cells suffice for host colonization, we inactivated the capacity of MuHV-4, a gammaherpesvirus of mice, to reemerge from B cells. The modified virus was able to colonize a first wave of B cells in lymph nodes but spread poorly to B cells in secondary sites such as the spleen. Consequently, viral loads remained low. These results were consistent with virus-driven B cell proliferation exploiting normal host pathways and thus having to transfer lytically to new B cells for new proliferation. We conclude that viral lytic infection is a potential target to reduce B cell proliferation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02199-17
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • B cell
  • Cre/lox
  • Gammaherpesvirus
  • Lytic infection
  • Pathogenesis


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