The Loss of Binary: Pushing the Herpesvirus Latency Paradigm

Donna Collins-McMillen, Felicia D. Goodrum

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: Herpesvirus latency has been viewed as a binary state where replication is either on or off. During latency, gene expression is thought to be restricted to non-coding RNAs or very few proteins so that the virus avoids detection by the immune system. However, a number of recent studies across herpesvirus families call into question the existence of a binary switch for latency and suggest that latency is far more dynamic than originally presumed. These studies are the focus of this review. Recent Findings: Highly sensitive and global approaches to investigate viral gene expression in the context of latency have revealed low-level viral transcripts and in some cases protein, from each of the three kinetic gene classes during the latent alpha and beta herpesvirus infection either in vitro or in vivo. Further, low-level, asymptomatic virus shedding persists following acute infection. Together, these findings have raised questions about how silent the latent infection truly is. Summary: Emerging evidence suggests that viral gene expression associated with latent states may be broader and more dynamic than originally presumed during herpesvirus latency. This is an important possibility to consider in understanding the molecular programs associated with the establishment, maintenance, and reactivation of herpesvirus latency. Here, we review these findings and detail how they contribute to the emergence of a biphasic model of reactivation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-131
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Clinical Microbiology Reports
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Herpesvirus
  • Latency
  • Reactivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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