Anterograde transport of herpes simplex virus (HSV) from neuronal cell bodies into, and down, axons is a fundamentally important process for spread to other hosts. Different techniques for imaging HSV in axons have produced two models for how virus particles are transported in axons. In the Separate model, viral nucleocapsids devoid of the viral envelope and membrane glycoproteins are transported in axons. In the Married model, enveloped HSV particles (with the viral glycoproteins) encased within membrane vesicles are transported in the anterograde direction. Earlier studies of HSV-infected human neurons involving electron microscopy (EM) and immunofluorescence staining of glycoproteins and capsids supported the Separate model. However, more-recent live-cell imaging of rat, chicken, and mouse neurons produced evidence supporting the Married model. In a recent EM study, a mixture of Married (75%) and Separate (25%) HSV particles was observed. Here, we studied an HSV recombinant expressing a fluorescent form of the viral glycoprotein gB and a fluorescent capsid protein (VP26), observing that human SK-N-SH neurons contained both Separate (the majority) and Married particles. Live-cell imaging of rat superior cervical ganglion (SCG) neuronal axons in a chamber system (which oriented the axons) also produced evidence of Separate and Married particles. Together, our results suggest that one can observe anterograde transport of both HSV capsids and enveloped virus particles depending on which neurons are cultured and how the neurons are imaged.
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