Recognition of viruses by germ line-encoded pattern recognition receptors of the innate immune system is essential for rapid production of type I interferon (IFN) and early antiviral defense. We investigated the mechanisms of viral recognition governing production of type I IFN during herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection. We show that early production of IFN in vivo is mediated through Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) and plasmacytoid dendritic cells, whereas the subsequent alpha/beta IFN (IFN-α/β) response is derived from several cell types and induced independently of TLR9. In conventional DCs, the IFN response occurred independently of viral replication but was dependent on viral entry. Moreover, using a HSV-1 UL15 mutant, which fails to package viral DNA into the virion, we found that entry-dependent IFN induction also required the presence of viral genomic DNA. In macrophages and fibroblasts, where the virus was able to replicate, HSV-induced IFN-α/β production was dependent on both viral entry and replication, and ablated in cells unable to signal through the mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein pathway. Thus, during an HSV infection in vivo, multiple mechanisms of pathogen recognition are active, which operate in cell-type- and time-dependent manners to trigger expression of type I IFN and coordinate the antiviral response.
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