In Situ Detection of Regulatory T Cells in Human Genital Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2) Reactivation and Their Influence on Spontaneous HSV-2 Reactivation.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


The Journal of infectious diseases, Volume 214, Issue 1, p.23-31 (2016)


BACKGROUND:  Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) reactivation is accompanied by a sustained influx of CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells that persist in genital tissue for extended periods. While CD4(+) T cells have long been recognized as being present in herpetic ulcerations, their role in subclinical reactivation and persistence is less well known, especially the role of CD4(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs). METHODS:  We characterized the Treg (CD4(+)Foxp3(+)) population during human HSV-2 reactivation in situ in sequential genital skin biopsy specimens obtained from HSV-2-seropositive subjects at the time of lesion onset up to 8 weeks after healing. RESULTS:  High numbers of Tregs infiltrated to the site of viral reactivation and persisted in proximity to conventional CD4(+) T cells (Tconvs) and CD8(+) T cells. Treg density peaked during the lesion stage of the reactivation. The number of Tregs from all time points (lesion, healed, 2 weeks after healing, 4 weeks after healing, and 8 weeks after healing) was significantly higher than in control biopsy specimens from unaffected skin. There was a direct correlation between HSV-2 titer and Treg density. CONCLUSIONS:  The association of a high Treg to Tconv ratio with high viral shedding suggests that the balance between regulatory and effector T cells influences human HSV-2 disease.