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Herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE), a complication of herpes simplex virus type I (HSV-1) infection causes neurological disorder or even death in immunocompromised adults and newborns. However, the intrinsic factors controlling the HSE outcome remain unclear. Here, we show that HSE mice exhibit gut microbiota dysbiosis and altered metabolite configuration and tryptophan-nicotinamide metabolism. HSV-1 neurotropic infection activated microglia, with changed immune properties and cell numbers, to stimulate antiviral immune response and contribute substantially to HSE. In addition, depletion of gut microbiota by oral antibiotics (ABX)-treatment triggered the hyper-activation of microglia, which in turn enhanced inflammatory immune response, and cytokine production, resulting in aggregated viral burden and HSE pathology. Furthermore, exogenous administration of nicotinamide n-oxide (NAMO), an oxidative product of nicotinamide derived from gut microbiota, to ABX-treated or untreated HSE mice significantly diminished microglia-mediated proinflammatory response and limited HSV-1 infection in CNS. Mechanistic study revealed that HSV-1 activates microglia by increasing mitochondrial damage via defective mitophagy, whereas microbial metabolite NAMO restores NAD+-dependent mitophagy to inhibit microglia activation and HSE progression. NAMO also prevented neuronal cell death triggered by HSV-1 infection or microglia-mediated microenvironmental toxicity. Finally, we show that NAMO is mainly generated by neomycin-sensitive bacteria, especially Lactobacillus_gasseri and Lactobacillus_reuteri. Together, these data demonstrate that gut microbial metabolites act as intrinsic restrictive factors against HSE progression via regulating mitophagy in microglia, implying further exploration of bacterial or nutritional approaches for treating neurotropic virus-related neurodegenerative diseases.


Feng Li, Yiliang Wang, Xiaowei Song, Zhaoyang Wang, Jiaoyan Jia, Shurong Qing, Lianzhou Huang, Yuan Wang, Shuai Wang, Zhe Ren, Kai Zheng, Yifei Wang. The intestinal microbial metabolite nicotinamide n-oxide prevents herpes simplex encephalitis via activating mitophagy in microglia. Gut microbes. 2022 Jan-Dec;14(1):2096989

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PMID: 35793266

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