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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2006 Apr;4(4):283-94.

Marek's disease virus: from miasma to model.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


Marek's disease virus (MDV) is an oncogenic herpesvirus that causes various clinical syndromes in its natural host, the chicken. MDV has long been of interest as a model organism, particularly with respect to the pathogenesis and immune control of virus-induced lymphoma in an easily accessible small-animal system. Recent advances in MDV genetics and the determination of the chicken genome sequence, aided by functional genomics, have begun to dramatically increase our understanding not only of lytic MDV replication, but also of the factors and mechanisms leading to latency and tumour formation. This new information is helping to elucidate cellular signalling pathways that have undergone convergent evolution and are perturbed by different viruses, and emphasizes the value of MDV as a comparative biomedical model. Furthermore, the door is now open for rational and efficient engineering of new vaccines against one of the most important and widespread infectious diseases in chickens.

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