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Anterograde Neuronal Circuit Tracers Derived from Herpes Simplex Virus 1: Development, Application, and Perspectives.


Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) has great potential to be applied as a viral tool for gene delivery or oncolysis. The broad infection tropism of HSV-1 makes it a suitable tool for targeting many different cell types, and its 150 kb double-stranded DNA genome provides great capacity for exogenous genes. Moreover, the features of neuron infection and neuron-to-neuron spread also offer special value to neuroscience. HSV-1 strain H129, with its predominant anterograde transneuronal transmission, represents one of the most promising anterograde neuronal circuit tracers to map output neuronal pathways. Decades of development have greatly expanded the H129-derived anterograde tracing toolbox, including polysynaptic and monosynaptic tracers with various fluorescent protein labeling. These tracers have been applied to neuroanatomical studies, and have contributed to revealing multiple important neuronal circuits. However, current H129-derived tracers retain intrinsic drawbacks that limit their broad application, such as yet-to-be improved labeling intensity, potential nonspecific retrograde labeling, and high toxicity. The biological complexity of HSV-1 and its insufficiently characterized virological properties have caused difficulties in its improvement and optimization as a viral tool. In this review, we focus on the current H129-derived viral tracers and highlight strategies in which future technological development can advance its use as a tool.

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