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Virus Genes. 2007 Dec;35(3):753-66. Epub 2007 Aug 25.

Comparative sequence analysis of a highly oncogenic but horizontal spread-defective clone of Marek's disease virus.

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Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 934 College Station Rd., Athens, GA 30605, USA.


Marek's disease virus (MDV) is a cell-associated alphaherpesvirus that induces rapid-onset T-cell lymphomas in poultry. MDV isolates vary greatly in pathogenicity. While some of the strains such as CVI988 are non-pathogenic and are used as vaccines, others such as RB-1B are highly oncogenic. Molecular determinants associated with differences in pathogenicity are not completely understood. Comparison of the genome sequences of phenotypically different strains could help to identify molecular determinants of pathogenicity. We have previously reported the construction of bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clones of RB-1B from which fully infectious viruses could be reconstituted upon DNA transfection into chicken cells. MDV reconstituted from one of these clones (pRB-1B-5) showed similar in vitro and in vivo replication kinetics and oncogenicity as the parental virus. However, unlike the parental RB-1B virus, the BAC-derived virus showed inability to spread between birds. In order to identify the unique determinants for oncogenicity and the ''non-spreading phenotype'' of MDV derived from this clone, we determined the full-length sequence of pRB-1B-5. Comparative sequence analysis with the published sequences of strains such as Md5, Md11, and CVI988 identified frameshift mutations in RLORF1, protein kinase (UL13), and glycoproteins C (UL44) and D (US6). Comparison of the sequences of these genes with the parental virus indicated that the RLORF1, UL44, and US6 mutations were also present in the parental RB-1B stock of the virus. However with regard to UL13 mutation, the parental RB-1B stock appeared to be a mixture of wild type and mutant viruses, indicating that the BAC cloning has selected a mutant clone. Although further studies are needed to evaluate the role of these genes in the horizontal-spreading defective phenotype, our data clearly indicate that mutations in these genes do not affect the oncogenicity of MDV.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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