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J Gen Virol. 2011 May;92(Pt 5):1005-20. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.027789-0. Epub 2011 Jan 26.

Re-evaluation of the genome sequence of guinea pig cytomegalovirus.

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Department of Virology I, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Tokyo, Japan.


Congenital infection by human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a major cause of birth defects and developmental abnormalities. Since guinea pig cytomegalovirus (GPCMV) crosses the placenta and causes infection in utero, GPCMV models are useful for studies of the mechanisms of transplacental transmission. During our characterization of a genomic locus required for GPCMV dissemination in animals, we found that the nucleotide sequence in and around the nearby immediate-early genes in our lineage of GPCMV strain 22122 [designated GPCMV (ATCC-P5)] showed clear differences from that reported previously for the same strain [designated GPCMV (UMN)] passaged extensively in vitro. Since in vitro passaging of HCMV is known to result in genetic alterations, especially in the UL128-UL131A locus, and loss of growth ability in particular cell types, in this study we determined the complete genome sequence of GPCMV (ATCC-P5), which grows efficiently in animals. A total of 359 differences were identified between the genome sequences of GPCMV (UMN) and GPCMV (ATCC-P5), and these resulted in structural differences in 29 protein-encoding regions. In addition, some genes predicted from our analysis but not from GPCMV (UMN) are well conserved among cytomegaloviruses. An additional 18 passages of GPCMV (ATCC-P5) in vitro generated no further marked alterations in these genes or in the locus corresponding to the HCMV UL128-UL131A. Our analyses indicate that the published sequence of GPCMV (UMN) contains a substantial number of sequencing errors and, possibly, some mutations resulting from a long history of passaging in vitro. Our re-evaluation of the genetic content of GPCMV will provide a solid foundation for future studies.

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