Acute effects of purified and UV-inactivated herpes simplex virus type 1 on the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical axis

Tamir Ben-Hur*, Ron Cialic, Anna Itzik, Raz Yirmiya, Joseph Weidenfeld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is a common cause of viral encephalitis, manifested by neuroendocrine and behavioral changes. We have previously demonstrated that HSV-1 induces marked hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis activation. In this study we characterized the acute effects of HSV-1 on the HPA axis occurring before viral replication and appearance of clinical signs of encephalitis. Since in previous studies we used crude virus preparations which may contain immune factors produced by the infected cells, we tested here the effects of purified HSV-1 virions. HSV-1 was propagated on Vero cells and virions were purified by centrifugation in sucrose gradients. Inactivation of viral infectivity was achieved by UV-irradiation, which caused a million-fold decrease in virus titer, as determined by plaque assay. Intracerebroventricular (ICV) inoculation of crude or purified virions induced a dose dependent increase in serum corticosterone and corticotropin (ACTH). This effect was maximal within 3.5 h postinfection and lasted for 72 h. ICV inoculation of UV-inactivated purified virions caused a marked increase in serum corticosterone and ACTH at 3.5 h, but in contrast to the effect of the active virus, the hormone levels gradually decreased at 24 h, and returned to basal levels at 72 h postinfection. HSV-1-induced HPA axis activation at 3.5 h was completely abolished by pretreatment with interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, injected ICV. Adrenalectomized rats failed to respond to ICV inoculation of purified HSV-1 by increase in ACTH. In contrast, these rats responded to ICV injection of LPS. In conclusion: (1) HSV-1 can acutely activate the HPA axis before and independently of any viral replication; (2) HSV-1-induced HPA axis activation depends on a permissive action of circulating glucocorticoids and on host derived brain interleukin-1.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)160-166
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001


  • Adrenal steroids
  • Corticotropin
  • Herpes virus
  • Hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis
  • Interleukins
  • Paraventricular nucleus


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