Release of hsv-1 cell-free virions: Mechanisms, regulation, and likely role in human-human transmission

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Herpes simplex virus type 1, or HSV-1, is a widespread human pathogen that replicates in epithelial cells of the body surface and then establishes latent infection in peripheral neurons. When HSV-1 replicates, viral progeny must be efficiently released to spread infection to new target cells. Viral spread occurs via two major routes. In cell-cell spread, progeny virions are delivered directly to cellular junctions, where they infect adjacent cells. In cell-free release, progeny virions are released into the extracellular milieu, potentially allowing the infection of distant cells. Cell-cell spread of HSV-1 has been well studied and is known to be important for in vivo infection and pathogenesis. In contrast, HSV-1 cell-free release has received less attention, and its significance to viral biology is unclear. Here, I review the mechanisms and regulation of HSV-1 cell-free virion release. Based on knowledge accrued in other herpesviral systems, I argue that HSV-1 cell-free release is likely to be tightly regulated in vivo. Specifically, I hypothesize that this process is generally suppressed as the virus replicates within the body, but activated to high levels at sites of viral reactivation, such as the oral mucosa and skin, in order to promote efficient transmission of HSV-1 to new human hosts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2395
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Cell-cell spread
  • Cell-free virions
  • Glycoproteins
  • HSV-1
  • HSV-2
  • Heparan sulfate
  • Heparanase
  • Human-human transmission
  • Marek’s disease virus
  • Varicella-zoster virus


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