This study presents the first direct evidence for herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) infection in the neurons of the vestibular ganglion. Although many investigators have reported electron microscopic evidence of HSV-1 infection in sensory ganglia, HSV-1 infection in the vestibular ganglion has not been described. Vestibular ganglion neurons have a unique structure, with a loose myelin sheath instead of the satellite cell sheath that is seen in other ganglia. This loose myelin is slightly different from compact myelin which is known as too tight for HSV-1 to penetrate. The role of loose myelin in terms of HSV-1 infection is completely unknown. Therefore, in an attempt to evaluate the role of loose myelin in HSV-1 infection, we looked for HSV-1 particles, or any effects mediated by HSV-1, in the vestibular ganglion as compared with the geniculate ganglion. At the light microscopic level, some neurons with vacuolar changes were observed, mainly in the distal portion of the vestibular ganglion where the communicating branch from the geniculate ganglion enters. At the electron microscopic level, vacuoles, dilated rough endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi vesicles occupied by virus were observed in both ganglia neurons. In contrast, viral infections in Schwann and satellite cells were observed only in the geniculate ganglion, but not in the vestibular ganglion. These results suggest that loose myelin is an important barrier to HSV-1 infection, and it must play an important role in the prevention of viral spread from infected neurons to other cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology