Herpes simplex virus: A versatile tool for insights into evolution, gene delivery, and tumor immunotherapy
Herpesviruses are prevalent throughout the animal kingdom, and they have coexisted and coevolved along with their host species for millions of years. Herpesviruses carry a large (120-230 kb) double-stranded DNA genome surrounded by a protein capsid, a tegument layer consisting of viral and host proteins, and a lipid bilayer envelope with surface glycoproteins. A key characteristic of these viruses is their ability to enter a latent state following primary infection, allowing them to evade the host’s immune system and persist permanently. Herpesviruses can reactivate from their dormant state, usually during times of stress or when the host’s immune responses are impaired. While herpesviruses can cause complications with severe disease in immune-compromised people, most of the population experiences few ill effects from herpesvirus infections. Indeed, herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) in particular has several features that make it an attractive tool for therapeutic gene delivery. Herpes simplex virus 1 targets and infects specific cell types, such as epithelial cells and neurons. The HSV-1 genome can also accommodate large insertions of up to 14 kb. The HSV-1-based vectors have already achieved success for the oncolytic treatment of melanoma. In addition to serving as a vehicle for therapeutic gene delivery and targeted cell lysis, comparative genomics of herpesviruses HSV-1 and 2 has revealed valuable information about the evolutionary history of both viruses and their hosts. This review focuses on the adaptability of HSV-1 as an instrument for gene delivery and an evolutionary marker. Overall, HSV-1 shows great promise as a tool for treating human disease and studying human migration patterns, disease outbreaks, and evolution.