Infection of the trigeminal ganglion was investigated using standard thymidine kinase-positive (TK+) herpes simplex virus (HSV) and two TK- mutants. After corneal inoculation of mice with TK- HSV, the incidence of acute and latent trigeminal ganglion infection was markedly decreased compared to TK+ virus. When cell-free virus was titered from mice 1 hr to 5 days post-corneal inoculation, ocular replication of TK- HSV was found to be similar to TK+ HSV, but whereas TK+ HSV replicated well and was found in substantial amounts in trigeminal ganglia (2 × 103 PFU/mg ganglion tissue), TK- HSV did not replicate in the ganglia. Mean TK- trigeminal ganglion virus titers were 10,000-fold less than TK+ titers. When a TK+ revertant of TK- mutant virus was tested, however, trigeminal ganglion virus replication was similar to that with the parental TK+ virus. The results obtained were interpreted as being consistent with impaired axonal transport of TK- HSV from cornea to trigeminal ganglion neurons or more likely, with impaired replication of TK- HSV in ganglionic neurons.
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