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J Virol. 2004 Oct;78(19):10282-90.

Identification of candidate gammaherpesvirus 68 genes required for virus replication by signature-tagged transposon mutagenesis.

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  • 1Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, Division of Microbiology & Immunology, Yerkes National Primate Center, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.


Current methods for determining the role of a given gene product in the gammaherpesvirus 68 (gammaHV68) life cycle require generation of a specific mutation by either homologous recombination in mammalian cells or bacterial artificial chromosome-mediated mutagenesis in Escherichia coli. The mutant virus is then compared to wild-type virus, and the role of the gene in the viral life cycle is deduced from its phenotype. This process is both time-consuming and labor intensive. Here we present the use of random, transposon-mediated signature-tagged mutagenesis for the identification of candidate viral genes involved in virus replication. Pools of viral mutants, each containing a random insertion of a transposon, were generated with a transposon donor library in which each transposon contains a unique sequence identifier. These pools were transfected into mammalian cells, and the ability of each mutant to replicate was assessed by comparing the presence of virus in the output pool to that present in the input pool of viral genomes. With this approach we could rapidly screen up to 96 individual mutants simultaneously. The location of the transposon insertion was determined by sequencing individual clones with a common primer specific for the transposon end. Here we present the characterization of 53 distinct viral mutants that correspond to insertions in 29 open reading frames within the gammaHV68 genome. To confirm the results of the signature-tagged mutagenesis screen, we quantitated the ability of each mutant to replicate compared to wild-type gammaHV68. From these analyses we identified 16 gammaHV68 open reading frames that, when disrupted by transposon insertions, score as essential for virus replication, and six other open reading frames whose disruption led to significant attenuation of virus replication. In addition, transposon insertion in five other gammaHV68 open reading frames did not affect virus replication. Notably, all but one of the candidate essential replication genes identified in this screen have been shown to be essential for the replication of at least one other herpesvirus.

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