30-Apr-2020 - Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

Herpes virus decoded using new methods

A comprehensive systems biological analysis of the herpes virus genome has caused some surprises

The genome of the herpes simplex virus 1 was decoded using new methods. Hundreds of previously unknown gene products were found. The virus causes lip herpes, but can also be life-threatening.

Until now, scientists had assumed that there are about 80 so-called open reading frames (ORFs) in the genome of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1). These are the locations in the genome where the information in the DNA is read and translated into proteins. It is now clear that there are a lot more – namely 284 ORFs. These are translated from hundreds of novel viral transcripts, which have now also been identified.

This is what research groups from Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Würzburg in Bavaria, Germany, and other institutions report in the journal Nature Communications.

"The new findings now make it possible to study the individual genes of the virus much more precisely than before," says Professor Lars Dölken, head of the JMU Chair of Virology. He was in charge of this project together with Florian Erhard, JMU junior professor of systems virology.

Several institutions involved

The research team used a broad spectrum of the latest systems biology methods for the study. In addition to JMU, the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, the University of Cambridge in England and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität of Munich were involved.

The data are not only important for a better understanding of the virus itself. They also have concrete implications, for example for the development of HSV-1-based oncolytic viruses. These are viruses that are used in immunological therapies of certain tumor diseases, such as malignant melanoma.

Facts about herpes simplex virus 1

Herpes simplex viruses of type 1 (HSV-1) are known to many people as the cause of unpleasant itching cold sores. An infection with this virus type can also have serious consequences. For example, HSV-1 can cause life-threatening pneumonia in patients in intensive care units. And in healthy people, it can cause encephalitis, which often leads to permanent brain damage.

Once infected with the virus, a person will retain it for the rest of his or her life: herpes viruses permanently nestle in body cells. There they usually remain inconspicuous for a long time. Only under special circumstances, such as a weakened immune system, they become active again.

Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

Request information now

Recommend news PDF version / Print

Share on

Facts, background information, dossiers
  • herpes simplex
  • herpes
More about Uni Würzburg
  • News

    Hurdle of microscopy overcome

    High-resolution microscopy makes it theoretically possible to image cell structures with a resolution of a few nanometres. However, this has not yet been possible in practice. The reason for this is that antibodies carrying a fluorescent dye are usually used to mark the cell structures. The ... more

    High-end Microscopy Refined

    For the first time, two Würzburg research groups have been able to map the synaptonemal complex three-dimensionally with a resolution of 20 to 30 nanometres. The synaptonemal complex is a ladder-like cell structure that plays a major role in the development of egg and sperm cells in humans ... more

    Virus multiplication in 3D

    Vaccinia viruses serve as a vaccine against human smallpox and as the basis of new cancer therapies. Two studies now provide fascinating insights into their unusual propagation strategy at the atomic level. For viruses to multiply, they usually need the support of the cells they infect. In ... more