“ This new study, led by researchers from the University of Illinois Chicago, initially set out to investigate why acute HSV-1 infections can be fatal in some immunocompromised people and harmless in many others. The answer came in the form of a protein called optineurin (OPTN).
“OPTN stops the virus from growing and it stops it by autophagy – engulfing the virus particles inside tiny vesicles called autophagosomes,” says Deepak Shukla, lead researcher on the project. “The autophagy that happens is very selective."
In mice lacking OPTN the viral infection rapidly spread into the brain and significant neurodegeneration was subsequently observed.