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Research Abstracts Online
January 2008 - March 2009

University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Medical School
Department of Pediatrics

PI: Jin-Young Han

Immunology of Herpes Simplex Virus Infections

Better therapeutic approaches are needed to attain the Healthy People 2010 objectives of reducing genital herpes infection and its consequences in newborns. Understanding how herpes simplex virus (HSV) evades the host’s immune system is a critical step toward the development of improved therapies for genital and neonatal herpes. The long-term goal of this research is to understand the immunology of herpes virus infections. The current objective is to determine how HSV induces apoptosis in T cells. Since T cells are recruited to control HSV at the site of recurrence, it is possible that induction of T cell apoptosis is an integral immune evasion mechanisms during reactivation of viral infection. The central hypothesis is that key viral proteins of HSV induce apoptosis in T cells by increasing expression of pro-apoptotic genes.

This hypothesis is being tested by pursuing two specific aims: identification of HSV gene products that are required to induce apoptosis in T cells, and determination of the cellular components of apoptosis pathways in T cells that are modulated by HSV. This research is significant because it provides the knowledge base needed to disrupt an immune evasion mechanism used by the virus. This is an important area of herpes simplex virus immunology that seeks to identify the viral immune evasion mechanisms important for reactivation of genital and neonatal infections. This work has potential applicability in developing novel therapies to reduce public health consequences from virus reactivation in genital and neonatal infections.