Varicella zoster virus glycoprotein C increases chemokine-mediated leukocyte migration. Herpesviruses have co-evolved with their hosts during millions of years. Therefore, they are repositories of information that can be exploited in two ways. First, to understand viral processes such as viral replication cycle, immune modulation and pathogenesis to facilitate the development of novel antiviral strategies. Second, understanding the viral strategies of host interaction provides relevant knowledge about the functioning of the host, facilitating the discovery of host proteins that control basic processes of cellular function.
Among the human herpesviruses, herpes simplex virus type 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2, respectively) and varicella zoster virus (VZV) colonize and persist within neurons, being able to modulate the host’s nervous system. The outcome of infection is highly dependent on the modulation of and interaction with the immune system and the successful colonization of the nervous system. After primary infection these viruses establish lifelong latency in specific subtypes of neurons and can reactivate by specific stimuli.
Most adults are infected with VZV and HSV-1, acquiring the viruses during childhood. HSV-2, however, is normally transmitted sexually and infects a lower number of individuals. HSV-1 and HSV-2 cause a variety of diseases, such as cold sores, herpes simplex keratitis leading to blindness, painful genital herpes or encephalitis. VZV causes varicella during primary infection and zoster, associated with acute pain, following reactivation. A percentage of zoster patients suffer from post herpetic neuralgia, chronic pain that last for months after the disappearance of the zoster rash.
The long-term goal of our present research is to understand how HSV-1, HSV-2 and VZV modulate the immune and nervous systems of the host in order to develop novel antiviral drugs, vaccines and immunomodulators. We focus on the modulation of chemokines and neurotrophic factors, proteins involved in the crosstalk between the immune and nervous systems.