Gene is first linked to herpes-related cold sores

November 30, 2011

A team of researchers from the University of Utah and the University of Massachusetts has identified the first gene associated with frequent herpes-related cold sores.

The findings were published in the Dec. 1, 2011, issue of the .

Herpes simplex labialis (HSL) is an infection caused by 1 (HSV-1) that affects more than 70 percent of the U.S. population. Once HSV-1 has infected the body, it is never removed by the . Instead, it is transported to nerve cell bodies, where it lies dormant until it is reactivated. The most common visible symptom of HSV-1 reactivation is a cold sore on or around the mouth. Although a majority people are infected by HSV-1, the frequency of cold sore outbreaks is extremely variable and the causes of reactivation are uncertain.

"Researchers believe that three factors contribute to HSV-1 reactivation – the virus itself, exposure to environmental factors, and genetic susceptibility," says John D. Kriesel, M.D., research associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Utah School of Medicine and first author on the study. "The goal of our investigation was to define genes linked to cold sore frequency."

Kriesel and his colleagues previously had identified a region of chromosome 21 containing six genes significantly linked to HSL disease using DNA collected from 43 large families to map the human genome. In the current study, Kriesel and his colleagues performed intensive analysis of this chromosome region using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping, a test which identifies differences in genetic make-up between individuals.

"Using SNP genotyping, we were able to identify 45 DNA sequence variations among 618 study participants, 355 of whom were known to be infected with HSV-1," says Kriesel. "We then used two methods called linkage analysis and transmission disequilibrium testing to determine if there was a genetic association between particular DNA sequence variations and the likelihood of having frequent cold sore outbreaks."

Kriesel and his colleagues discovered that an obscure gene called C21orf91 was associated with susceptibility to HSL. They identified five major variations of C21orf91, two of which seemed to protect against HSV-1 reactivation and two of which seemed to increase the likelihood of having frequent cold sore outbreaks.

"There is no cure for and, at this time, there is no way for us to predict or prevent cold sore outbreaks," says Kriesel. "The C21orf91 gene seems to play a role in cold sore susceptibility, and if this data is confirmed among a larger, unrelated population, this discovery could have important implications for the development of drugs that affect cold sore frequency."

Explore further: Study finds specific gene linked to cold sore susceptibility

Related Stories

Study finds specific gene linked to cold sore susceptibility

October 28, 2011
Investigators have identified a human chromosome containing a specific gene associated with susceptibility to herpes simplex labialis (HSL), the common cold sore. Published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases and now available ...

Recommended for you

The 16 genetic markers that can cut a life story short

July 27, 2017
The answer to how long each of us will live is partly encoded in our genome. Researchers have identified 16 genetic markers associated with a decreased lifespan, including 14 new to science. This is the largest set of markers ...

A rogue gene is causing seizures in babies—here's how scientists wants to stop it

July 26, 2017
Two rare diseases caused by a malfunctioning gene that triggers seizures or involuntary movements in children as early as a few days old have left scientists searching for answers and better treatment options.

Scientists provide insight into genetic basis of neuropsychiatric disorders

July 21, 2017
A study by scientists at the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) is providing insight into the genetic basis of neuropsychiatric disorders. In this research, the first mouse model of a mutation ...

Scientists identify new way cells turn off genes

July 19, 2017
Cells have more than one trick up their sleeve for controlling certain genes that regulate fetal growth and development.

South Asian genomes could be boon for disease research, scientists say

July 18, 2017
The Indian subcontinent's massive population is nearing 1.5 billion according to recent accounts. But that population is far from monolithic; it's made up of nearly 5,000 well-defined sub-groups, making the region one of ...

Mutant yeast reveals details of the aberrant genomic machinery of children's high-grade gliomas

July 18, 2017
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital biologists have used engineered yeast cells to discover how a mutation that is frequently found in pediatric brain tumor high-grade glioma triggers a cascade of genomic malfunctions.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.