Multidimensional analysis of gammaherpesvirus RNA expression reveals unexpected heterogeneity of gene expression

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Lauren M. Okoid
  • Abigail K. Kimballid
  • Rachael E. Kasparid
  • Ashley N. Knoxid
  • Carrie B. Coleman
  • Rosemary Rochford
  • Tim Chang
  • Benjamin Alderete
  • Linda F. van Dyk
  • Eric T. Clambey

External Institution(s)

  • University of Colorado Denver
  • Merck KGaA
  • Luminex Corporation


Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1007849
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number6
StatusPublished - Jun 2019


Virus-host interactions are frequently studied in bulk cell populations, obscuring cell-to-cell variation. Here we investigate endogenous herpesvirus gene expression at the single-cell level, combining a sensitive and robust fluorescent in situ hybridization platform with multi-parameter flow cytometry, to study the expression of gammaherpesvirus non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) during lytic replication, latent infection and reactivation in vitro. This method allowed robust detection of viral ncRNAs of murine gammaherpesvirus 68 (γHV68), Kaposi’s sarcoma associated herpesvirus and Epstein-Barr virus, revealing variable expression at the single-cell level. By quantifying the inter-relationship of viral ncRNA, viral mRNA, viral protein and host mRNA regulation during γHV68 infection, we find heterogeneous and asynchronous gene expression during latency and reactivation, with reactivation from latency identified by a distinct gene expression profile within rare cells. Further, during lytic replication with γHV68, we find many cells have limited viral gene expression, with only a fraction of cells showing robust gene expression, dynamic RNA localization, and progressive infection. Lytic viral gene expression was enhanced in primary fibroblasts and by conditions associated with enhanced viral replication, with multiple subpopulations of cells present in even highly permissive infection conditions. These findings, powered by single-cell analysis integrated with automated clustering algorithms, suggest inefficient or abortive γHV infection in many cells, and identify substantial heterogeneity in viral gene expression at the single-cell level.

Citation formats



Okoid, LM, Kimballid, AK, Kasparid, RE, Knoxid, AN, Coleman, CB, Rochford, R, Chang, T, Alderete, B, van Dyk, LF & Clambey, ET 2019, 'Multidimensional analysis of gammaherpesvirus RNA expression reveals unexpected heterogeneity of gene expression', PLoS pathogens, vol. 15, no. 6, e1007849.