gE: We bring Herpes Virus infections to life

by Jennifer Flint and Benjamin Lancaster
Biochemistry
Faculty advisor: Dr. Brian Lenzmeier

Human herpes simplex viruses cause serious damage to mucosal tissue in the mouth (HHV-1) and genitals (HHV-2). They can infect and establish latency in neurons and then reactivate and re-infect the original mucosal tissues. We are interested in determining host cell proteins that are used by Herpes viruses during the course of a neuronal infection. The assay we are using is the yeast two-hybrid where we co-express both the viral gE protein and a host cell protein inside of S. cerevisiae cells. If the two proteins interact, the yeast cell gains the ability to grow on agar plates lacking uracil, tryptophan, histidine and adenine. If the proteins do not interact, the cells will die on those same agar plates. We have used this assay to identify approximately two hundred proteins that potentially interact with the herpes virus gE protein. The neuronal proteins we have identified serve a variety of important functions, many of which are suggestive of a possible means of viral entry and trafficking, including: regulation of cell proliferation, vesicle trafficking and secretion, cell to cell communication and ATP binding, among many others. We will present the identity of these gene products and will introduce several hypotheses for how they might by utilized by Herpes viruses during the infection of neurons.