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J Vet Med Sci. 2002 Dec;64(12):1097-101.

Diversity (polymorphism) of the meq gene in the attenuated Marek's disease virus (MDV) serotype 1 and MDV-transformed cell lines.

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


The meq gene encoding a 339-amino-acid bZIP transactivator protein has been identified as a candidate oncogene of Marek's disease virus serotype 1 (MDV1), which induces malignant lymphomas in chickens. We have previously reported that, in addition to meq, L-meq, in which a 180-bp sequence is inserted into the region encoding the transactivation domain of meq, is also detected in chickens experimentally infected with MDV. To further analyze the diversity in meq, PCR was performed using a primer set which specifically amplify the proline-rich repeat (PRR) region in the transactivation domain of meq. In CVI988/R6, a vaccine strain of MDV1, and JM, an MDV1 strain attenuated by prolonged passage in vitro, a major band of a 0.8 kb corresponding to L-meq as well as a minor band of 0.6 kb corresponding to meq was detected by PCR. Furthermore, extra 0.5- and 0.3-kb bands, corresponding to genes termed as short meq (S-meq), and very short meq (VS-meq), respectively, were also detected. These genes were also detected in MDV-transformed cell lines, MSB1 and MTB1. In Md5, an oncogenic MDV1, attenuated by prolonged passage in vitro, the 0.6-kb meq was consistently detected, and 0.5-kb S-meq was occasionally detected. This diversity in meq was due to the difference in the copy number of the PRR region: L-meq and meq contained 9 and 6 copies of PRR while 4 and 2 copies of PRR were present in S-meq and VS-meq, respectively. Thus, the meq gene is polymorphic in the attenuated MDV1 and the MDV-transformed cell lines, and gene products from different meq genes may have different functions from each other.

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