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J Virol. 1996 Jan;70(1):78-83.

Human cytomegalovirus clinical isolates carry at least 19 genes not found in laboratory strains.

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Aviron, Burlingame, California 94010, USA.


Nucleotide sequence comparisons were performed on a highly heterogeneous region of three human cytomegalovirus strains, Toledo, Towne, and AD169. The low-passage, virulent Toledo genome contained a DNA segment of approximately 13 kbp that was not found in the Towne genome and a segment of approximately 15 kbp that was not found in the AD169 genome. The Towne strain contained approximately 4.7 kbp of DNA that was absent from the AD169 genome, and only about half of this segment was present, arranged in an inverted orientation, in the Toledo genome. These additional sequences were located at the unique long (UL)/b' (IRL) boundary within the L component of the viral genome. A region representing nucleotides 175082 to 178221 of the AD169 genome was conserved in all three strains; however, substantial reduction in the size of the adjacent b' sequence was found. The additional DNA segment within the Toledo genome contained 19 open reading frames not present in the AD169 genome. The additional DNA segment within the Towne genome contained four new open reading frames, only one of which shared homology with the Toledo genome. This comparison was extended to five additional clinical isolates, and the additional Toledo sequence was conserved in all. These findings reveal a dramatic level of genome sequence complexity that may explain the differences that these strains exhibit in virulence and tissue tropism. Although the additional sequences have not altered the predicted size of the viral genome (230 to 235 kbp), a total of 22 new open reading frames (denoted UL133 to UL154), many of which have sequence characteristics of glycoproteins, are now defined as cytomegalovirus specific. Our work suggests that wild-type virus carries more than 220 genes, some of which are lost by large-scale deletion and rearrangement of the UL/b' region during laboratory passage.

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