Pathway of viral spread in herpes zoster: detection of the protein encoded by open reading frame 63 of varicella-zoster virus in biopsy specimens
Reactivation of varicella-zoster virus (VZV) in the dorsal root or trigeminal ganglia causes herpes zoster. The pathway of viral spread from the ganglia to the skin and also within the skin is not yet completely understood. Histological studies have revealed that each skin lesion in herpes zoster progresses sequentially through the stages of erythema, vesicles, pustules and finally ulceration. An immunohistochemical study of the early skin lesions of herpes zoster demonstrated a high incidence of hair follicle involvement and the main localization of the virus at the isthmus. This evidence suggests that VZV initially spreads from the ganglia through myelinated nerves, which predominantly end around the isthmus of hair follicles. To further investigate the viral spread within the skin, we analyzed the sequential appearance of the immediate early proteins encoded by ORF 63 of VZV (1E63), using an anti-1E63 antibody raised by immunization of rabbits with a recombinant protein. This antibody could detect 1E63 in a western blot analysis of infected cells and also in immunohistochemical analysis of the skin lesions of herpes zoster. 1E63 initially appeared in the nuclei of the follicular epithelial cells and basal or parabasal epidermal cells. Later, the nuclei and cytoplasm of cells in the epidermis and hair follicles became positive. 1E63 remained in the virus-infected cells even during their degeneration. When we examined the hair follicles in the early erythematous lesions, cells positive for 1E63 were predominantly distributed around the isthmus. In addition, some lymphocytes around the blood vessels were also positive for 1E63, but these cells were seldom positive for the structural antigen. Thus, these observations suggest that VZV arriving through myelinated nerves infects not only permissive cells, but also non-permissive cells in the involved skin of herpes zoster.
KeywordsHair Follicle Herpes Zoster Trigeminal Ganglion Viral Spread Immediate Early
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