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RNA sequencing of the in vivo human herpesvirus 6B transcriptome to identify targets for clinical assays distinguishing between latent and active infections

By Joshua A. Hill, Minako Ikoma, Danielle M Zerr, Ryan S Basom, Vikas Peddu, Meei-Li Huang, Ruth Hall Sedlak, Keith R Jerome, Michael Boeckh, Serge Barcy

Posted 22 Aug 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/397679 (published DOI: 10.1128/jvi.01419-18)

Human herpesvirus 6B (HHV-6B) DNA is frequently detected in human samples, especially after hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). Diagnostic assays distinguishing HHV-6B reactivation from latency are limited, and this has contributed to confusion in research and made the design of clinical approaches to diagnose and treat HHV-6-associated diseases challenging. We used RNA sequencing to characterize and compare the HHV-6B transcriptome in multiple in vivo and in vitro sample types, including 1) whole blood from HCT recipients with and without HHV-6B plasma viremia; 2) tumor tissue samples from subjects with large B cell lymphoma infected with HHV-6B; 3) lymphoblastoid cell lines from subjects with inherited chromosomally integrated HHV-6B or latent infection with HHV-6B; and 4) HHV-6B Z29 infected SupT1 CD4+ T cells. We demonstrated substantial overlap in the HHV-6B transcriptome observed in in vivo and in vitro samples, although there was variability in the breadth and quantity of gene expression across samples. No HHV-6B transcripts were detected in whole blood samples from subjects without plasma HHV-6B viremia. The HHV-6B viral polymerase gene U38 was the only HHV-6B transcript detected in all RNA-seq data sets and was one of the most highly expressed genes. Using a novel reverse transcription quantitative PCR assay targeting HHV-6B U38, we identified U38 messenger RNA in all tested whole blood samples from patients with concurrent HHV-6B viremia, indicating its utility as a diagnostic assay for HHV-6B replication. This study demonstrates the feasibility of pathogen transcriptome analyses in HCT recipients to improve targets for diagnostic, and potentially therapeutic, applications.

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