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Journal of Virology


Innate immune deficiencies result in a spectrum of severe clinical outcomes following infection. In particular, there is a strong association between loss of the signal transducer and activator of transcription (Stat) pathway, breach of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), and virus-induced neuropathology. The gene signatures that characterize resistance, disease, and mortality in the virus-infected nervous system have not been defined. Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is commonly associated with encephalitis in humans, and humans and mice lacking Stat1 display increased susceptibility to HSV central nervous system (CNS) infections. In this study, two HSV-1 strains were used, KOS (wild type [WT]), and Δvhs, an avirulent recombinant lacking the virion host shutoff (vhs) function. In addition, two mouse strains were used: strain 129 (control) and a Stat1-deficient (Stat1−/−) strain. Using combinations of these virus and mouse strains, we established a model of infection resulting in three different outcomes: viral clearance without neurological disease (Δvhs infection of control mice), neurological disease followed by viral clearance (Δvhs infection of Stat1−/− mice and WT infection of control mice), or neurological disease followed by death (WT infection of Stat1−/− mice). Through the use of functional genomics on the infected brain stems, we determined gene signatures that were representative of the three infection outcomes. We demonstrated a pathological signature in the brain stem of Stat1-deficient mice characterized by upregulation of transcripts encoding chemokine receptors, inflammatory markers, neutrophil chemoattractants, leukocyte adhesion proteins, and matrix metalloproteases. Additionally, there was a greater than 100-fold increase in the inflammatory markers interleukin 1β (IL-1β) and IL-6. Consistent with this gene signature, we demonstrated profound CNS inflammation with a concomitant lethal breach of the BBB. Taken together, our results indicated an essential role for normal Stat1-dependent signaling in mediating a nonpathological immune response to viral CNS infection.