Programmed cell death activates latent herpesviruses

September 5, 2013

Researchers have found that apoptosis, a natural process of programmed cell death, can reactivate latent herpesviruses in the dying cell. The results of their research, which could have broad clinical significance since many cancer chemotherapies cause apoptosis, was published ahead of print in the Journal of Virology.

Human herpesviruses (HHV) are linked to a range of childhood and adult diseases, including chickenpox, mononucleosis, cold sores, and genital sores, and are of a particular concern for patients who are immunosuppressed due cancer or AIDS. Some HHV types are so common they are nearly universal in humans. A key feature of these viruses is their ability to remain latent for long periods of time, and then reactivate after the latent phase. Previously, reactivation was thought to be primarily due to waning immunity, immunosuppression, or exposure to certain inducing agents.

This study began when principal investigator Steven Zeichner of Children's National Medical Center and George Washington University in Washington, DC, followed up earlier findings that high concentrations of the antibiotic doxycycline can induce apoptosis, and can also activate replication by the Kaposi's Sarcoma-associated Herpesvirus (KSHV), and a study by his former mentor, Bernard Roizman of the University of Chicago, which showed that apoptosis also triggers replication of -1, which causes cold sores in the mouth.

"We decided to test… several additional human herpesviruses that cause notable diseases and which have good cell line models, including human herpesviruses (HHV)-6A, =6B, and -7, and Epstein-Bar virus (EBV)," says Zeichner. That all of these herpesviruses were activated by apoptosis suggested that this mechanism might apply to all herpesviruses.

The clinical implications could be staggering. Some important cytotoxic cancer chemotherapeutic drugs, including doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone act in part by inducing apoptosis, according to the study. Additionally, treatment with glucocorticoids has been known to worsen Kaposi's Sarcoma. The investigators also note that herpesvirus activation has been associated with poor outcomes following bone marrow transplantation.

"Activation of herpesviruses in these states and disorders has previously been variably attributed to general immune suppression, suppression of specific arms of the immune system, and increased concentrations of inflammatory and activating cytokines," write the researchers in the article. "If this activation occurs in potentially damaging ways, then perhaps patients at risk for herpesvirus activation should be treated with antiviral medications in addition to antineoplastic cytotoxic chemotherapy.

Almost all humans are infected with HHV-6, and many are infected with the other aforementioned herpesviruses, as well as cytomegalovirus, oral and genital herpes, and Varicella zoster, the virus that causes chicken pox and shingles.

Explore further: Study finds that apoptosis triggers replication of common viruses

More information: A copy of the manuscript can be found online at bit.ly/asmtip0913b. Formal publication is scheduled for the October 2013 issue of Journal of Virology.

Related Stories

Study finds that apoptosis triggers replication of common viruses

August 27, 2013
Researchers from Children's National Medical Center have found that an alternate, "escape" replication process triggered by apoptosis—the process of cell death or "cell suicide"—appears to be common in human herpesviruses ...

Inherited virus can cause cognitive dysfunction and fatigue

July 26, 2013
Many experts believe that chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has several root causes including some viruses. Now, lead scientists Shara Pantry, Maria Medveczky and Peter Medveczky of the University of South Florida's Morsani ...

Study identifies trigger for alternate reproduction of HIV-related cancer virus

April 17, 2012
A research team led by Children's National Medical Center has identified a trigger that causes latent Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) to rapidly replicate itself. KSHV causes Kaposi's sarcoma, primary effusion ...

New study has implications for treating and preventing cancers caused by viruses

March 12, 2012
New research from the Trudeau Institute addresses how the human body controls gamma-herpesviruses, a class of viruses thought to cause a variety of cancers. The study, carried out in the laboratory of Dr. Marcia Blackman, ...

Thwarting herpes, scientists open antiviral drug path

September 5, 2013
While herpesviruses infect most animals – including humans – with incurable disease, Cornell researchers have found a genetic trail to thwart its reproductive powers, cutting its infective powers by a factor of up to ...

Researchers discover gene that suppresses herpesviruses

February 13, 2013
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) hide within the worldwide human population. While dormant in the vast majority of those infected, these active herpesviruses can develop into several ...

Recommended for you

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

Engineered liver tissue expands after transplant

July 19, 2017
Many diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lead to liver failure. More than 17,000 Americans suffering from these diseases are now waiting for liver transplants, but significantly fewer livers are available.

Lunatic Fringe gene plays key role in the renewable brain

July 19, 2017
The discovery that the brain can generate new cells - about 700 new neurons each day - has triggered investigations to uncover how this process is regulated. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan ...

New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine

July 19, 2017
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of hepatitis C—a disease that affects nearly 71 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated—it might be worth ...

Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation via cannabinoids

July 18, 2017
Chemical compounds called cannabinoids are found in marijuana and also are produced naturally in the body from omega-3 fatty acids. A well-known cannabinoid in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, is responsible for some of its ...

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.