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J Vet Med Sci. 2002 May;64(5):413-7.

The detection of the meq gene in chicken infected with Marek's disease virus serotype 1.

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Department of Disease Control, Graduate School of Veterinary Medicine, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan.


In the genome of strains of very virulent Marek's disease virus serotype 1(vvMDV1), such as Md5 and RB1B, the meq open reading frame (ORF) encoding a 339-amino-acid bZIP protein, is present, while a slightly longer meq ORF, termed as L-meq, in which a 180-bp sequence is inserted into the meq ORF is found in other strains of MDV1, such as CV1988/R6 and attenuated JM. When chickens were infected with vvMDV1 strains and the meq gene was amplified by nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR), the meq gene was detected throughout the experimental period for 7 weeks post inoculation (pi). However, the L-meq gene was also detected at 3 to 5 weeks and 3 to 4 weeks pi. in Md5-infected and RB1B-infected chickens, respectively. In the case of chickens infected with an attenuated MDV1, the JM strain, the L-meq gene was detected at 2 to 7 weeks pi., and the meq gene was also detected at 2 to 6 weeks pi. Both L-meq and meq genes were detected in chickens infected with an attenuated nononcogenic vaccine strain of MDV1 (CVI988/R6), throughout the experimental period. Though quantitative PCR was not performed, a larger amount of the PCR products corresponding to the L-meq than the meq gene was amplified from chickens infected with JM or CVI988/R6. These results suggest that a dynamic population shift between the MDV subpopulations displaying meq and L-meq genes occurs in chickens during the course of MDV infection. Since the MDV subpopulation that displays the L-meq gene only displays it during the latent phase, the L-meq and its gene product, if any, might contribute to the maintenance of the MDV latency.

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