Dissecting the mechanisms of transport of herpes simplex virus between Langerhans Cells & dendritic cells in epidermis and dermis following infection of human genital mucosa and skin


Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has deemed a priority for a vaccine. CD8 and CD4T cells are important in the control and clearance of HSV, however no known vaccine has been able to stimulate CD8T cells. The dermal dendritic cells (dDCs) are suspected to play a role. Previously the host lab has shown in human tissue that HSV-1 infection of Langerhans cells (LCs) caused apoptosis and migration of LCs to the dermis, where they were phagocytosed by dDCs (termed HSV viral relay). Very little is known about the mechanisms of this relay. The host lab has also identified a second resident epidermal immune cell, Epi-cDC2s, which are infectable by HSV. This thesis aims to unravel the mechanisms involved in the relay. RNA-seq and cell surface phenotyping on human dDCs subsets showed that was differential chemokine receptor expression. Bead-based immunoassays were used to determine the chemokines produced by HSV-1 infected LCs and Epi-cDC2s,and showed HSV infected LCs produced increased CXCR3 ligands, while HSV infected Epi-cDC2s produced increased CCR5 ligands. The importance of these chemokine axes was investigated using chemotaxis assays. An cyclic immunofluorescent microscopy panel was then developed to investigate whether this migration could be seen in situ in HSV infected foreskin explants. Underneath epidermal foci of infection, there was migration of both cDC1s and cDC2s towards the basement membrane. Under foci of infection there was a greater proportion of cDC2s clustering with LCs. The uptake of HSV infected epidermal cells by the dDC subsets was examined using imaging cytometry. Preliminary results suggest that there were no significant differences between the ability of dDCs to phagocytose HSV infected epidermal cells. Understanding the mechanisms and the role of each dDC subset in the HSV viral relay will determine which dDC subsets are crucial for CD8 and CD4 T cell stimulation

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