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Arch Virol. 2006 Mar;151(3):537-49. Epub 2005 Sep 9.

Direct evidence of host genome acquisition by the alphaherpesvirus Marek's disease virus.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA.


Many herpesviruses including Marek's disease virus (MDV), a poultry alphaherpesvirus, carry homologous host genes presumably acquired during viral evolution. We have characterized one recent acquisition by MDV in considerable detail. The virulent MDV strain Md11 previously was isolated from a commercial chicken and initially propagated on duck cells. In the process of cloning the entire Md11 genome in a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC), we obtained an infectious clone in which the entire terminal repeat short segment was replaced with a portion of the duck genome that corresponds to chicken chromosome 19. This sequence is not predicted to express any protein even though it contains one exon of the VAMP1 gene. The replacement did not affect MDV replication in vitro, despite the virus having only one copy of ICP4. Furthermore, we have shown that the variant MDV genome containing the duck genome substitution is present in the parental Md11 population and has been maintained through several subsequent propagations of the virus on chicken cells. This finding provides direct evidence that host genome acquisition by MDV actually occurs during virus replication, and that one or more such MDV genomes with host sequences may exist within MDV viral stocks which tend to be polyclonal, due to the cell-associated nature of its infection process.

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