A biophysical study of intranuclear herpes simplex virus type 1 DNA during lytic infection
Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1) establishes latent infections in neurons in vivo and lytic infections in epithelial cells and fibroblasts. During latent infections, HSV-1 transcription is restricted and the genomes are not replicated. Latent HSV-1 genomes are chromatinized, such that digestion with micrococcal nuclease (MCN) releases DNA fragments with sizes characteristic of nucleosomal DNA. During lytic infections, in contrast, all HSV-1 genes are expressed, the genomes are replicated,
... are replicated, and their digestion produces primarily heterogeneously sized fragments. However, as evaluated by ChIP assays, HSV-1 DNA interacts with histones during lytic infections, although in most cases only a small percentage of HSV-1 DNA co-immunoprecipitates with histones (or is cleaved to nucleosome sizes following MCN digestion). Therefore, although current models propose that chromatin regulates HSV-1 transcription, it remains unclear how the association of histones with only a small percentage of HSV-1 DNA can globally regulate viral transcription. Moreover, the physical properties of the complexes containing histones and HSV-1 DNA are unknown. My objective was therefore to evaluate the biophysical properties of the HSV-1 DNA-containing complexes during lytic infection. Differing from pervious studies, however, I used classical chromatin purification techniques. I show that most HSV-1 DNA is in unstable nucleoprotein complexes and, consequently, more accessible to MCN than DNA in cellular chromatin. This HSV-1 DNA is protected from MCN redigestion only after crosslinking, similar to unstable cellular nucleosomes. HSV-1 DNA is in such complexes throughout lytic infection. Using unrelated small-molecule inhibitors, I further show that inhibition of HSV-1 transcription is associated with a decrease in MCN accessibility of HSV-1 DNA. Roscovitine, a cyclindependent kinase inhibitor, prevents activation but not elongation of IE, E, and L HSV-1 transcription. Consistent with a functional association between accessibility and transcription, roscovitine only decreases the accessibility of DNA templates of which it also inhibits transcription, independent of specific promoter sequences. In summary, I show that most HSV-1 DNA is in unstable nucleosome-like complexes during lytic infection and that accessibility to HSV-1 DNA likely plays a key role in regulating HSV-1 transcription.