The AIM2 inflammasome is activated by DNA, leading to caspase-1 activation and release of pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin 1β (IL-1β) and IL-18, which are critical mediators in host innate immune responses against various pathogens. Some viruses employ strategies to counteract inflammasome-mediated induction of pro-inflammatory cytokines, but their in vivo relevance is less well understood. Here we show that the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) tegument protein VP22 inhibits AIM2-dependent inflammasome activation. VP22 interacts with AIM2 and prevents its oligomerization, an initial step in AIM2 inflammasome activation. A mutant virus lacking VP22 (HSV-1ΔVP22) activates AIM2 and induces IL-1β and IL-18 secretion, but these responses are lost in the absence of AIM2. Additionally, HSV-1ΔVP22 infection results in diminished viral yields in vivo, but HSV-1ΔVP22 replication is largely restored in AIM2-deficient mice. Collectively, these findings reveal a mechanism of HSV-1 evasion of the host immune response that enables efficient viral replication in vivo. Upon activation, the AIM2 inflammasome induces the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β and IL-18, which are critical mediators in anti-microbial defense. Maruzuru et al. show that the HSV-1 tegument protein VP22 inhibits the AIM2 inflammasome by preventing its oligomerization and that this evasion strategy enables efficient viral replication in vivo.
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