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J Med Virol. 1998 Oct;56(2):151-8.

Polymorphisms of thymidine kinase gene in herpes simplex virus type 1: analysis of clinical isolates from herpetic keratitis patients and laboratory strains.

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Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, University of Tokushima, Japan.


Drug-resistance of herpes simplex virus (HSV) is caused most frequently by mutation of the viral thymidine kinase (TK) gene. To elucidate the significance of detecting nucleotide changes of the TK gene for screening drug-resistant viruses, the frequency and variation of the genetic polymorphisms in the whole coding region of the TK gene were studied in 14 acyclovir-susceptible HSV type 1 (HSV-1) clinical isolates from 14 patients with epithelial herpetic keratitis. Two reference HSV-1 laboratory strains, McKrae and PH, and two acyclovir-resistant variants of the PH strain were also studied as controls. Polymerase chain reaction-single-strand conformation polymorphism (PCR-SSCP) and direct sequencing detected nucleotide differences at 24 positions, and amino acid substitutions at 12 codons in the TK gene of the examined viruses. Nucleotide diversity of 0.0029 per base (the average number of nucleotide substitutions of 3.3 per 1,131 base pairs) in the TK gene in the clinical isolates was comparable to 0.0037 per base of the whole HSV-1 genome in Japanese isolates reported previously. PCR-SSCP analysis of the acyclovir-resistant strains easily detected aberrantly shifted bands by comparing them with those of the parental strain, followed by the quick determination of mutated sequences. These results suggest that detection of nucleotide changes of the TK gene is useful for serial observation of persistent or recurrent HSV infection as observed in immunocompromised hosts, but that it is not useful for screening drug-resistant viruses from nonepidemic clinical isolates because of the comparable genetic polymorphisms in the TK gene as in the whole HSV-1 genome.

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