Ocular herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) infection leads to a potentially blinding immunoinflammatory syndrome, herpes stromal keratitis (HSK). Herpesvirus entry mediator (HVEM), a widely expressed tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor superfamily member with diverse roles in immune signaling, facilitates viral entry through interactions with viral glycoprotein D (gD) and is important for HSV-1 pathogenesis. We subjected mice to corneal infection with an HSV-1 mutant in which HVEM-mediated entry was specifically abolished and found that the HVEM-entry mutant produced clinical disease comparable to that produced by the control virus. HVEM-mediated induction of corneal cytokines, which correlated with an HVEMdependent increase in levels of corneal immune cell infiltrates, was also gD independent. Given the complexity of HVEM immune signaling, we used hematopoietic chimeric mice to determine which HVEM-expressing cells mediate HSV-1 pathogenesis in the eye. Regardless of whether the donor was a wild-type (WT) or HVEM knockout (KO) strain, HVEM KO recipients were protected from ocular HSV-1, suggesting that HVEM on radiation-resistant cell types, likely resident cells of the cornea, confers wild-type-like susceptibility to disease. Together, these data indicate that HVEM contributes to ocular pathogenesis independently of entry and point to an immunomodulatory role for this protein specifically on radiation-resistant cells.
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