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J Virol. 2019 Feb 5;93(4). pii: e01903-18. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01903-18. Print 2019 Feb 15.

The Herpesviridae Conserved Multifunctional Infected-Cell Protein 27 (ICP27) Is Important but Not Required for Replication and Oncogenicity of Marek's Disease Alphaherpesvirus.

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Department of Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, USA.
Department of Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, USA


The Herpesviridae conserved infected-cell protein 27 (ICP27) is essential for cell culture-based replication of most herpesviruses studied. For members of the Alphaherpesvirinae, ICP27 regulates the expression of many viral genes, including expression of pUL44 (gC), pUL47 (VP13/14), and pUL48 (VP16). These three viral proteins are dysregulated during Marek's disease alphaherpesvirus (MDV) replication in cell culture. MDV replicates in a highly cell-associated manner in cell culture, producing little to no infectious virus. In contrast, infectious cell-free MDV is produced in specialized feather follicle epithelial (FFE) cells of infected chickens, in which these three genes are abundantly expressed. This led us to hypothesize that MDV ICP27, encoded by gene UL54, is a defining factor for the dysregulation of gC, pUL47, and pUL48 and, ultimately, ineffective virus production in cell culture. To address ICP27's role in MDV replication, we generated recombinant MDV with ICP27 deleted (vΔ54). Interestingly, vΔ54 replicated, but plaque sizes were significantly reduced compared to those of parental viruses. The reduced cell-to-cell spread was due to ICP27 since plaque sizes were restored in rescued viruses, as well as when vΔ54 was propagated in cells expressing ICP27 in trans In chickens, vΔ54 replicated, induced disease, and was oncogenic but was unable to transmit from chicken to chicken. To our knowledge, this is the first report showing that the Herpesviridae conserved ICP27 protein is dispensable for replication and disease induction in its natural host.IMPORTANCE Marek's disease (MD) is a devastating oncogenic disease that affects the poultry industry and is caused by MD alphaherpesvirus (MDV). Current vaccines block induction of disease but do not block chicken-to-chicken transmission. There is a knowledge gap in our understanding of how MDV spreads from chicken to chicken. We studied the Herpesviridae conserved ICP27 regulatory protein in cell culture and during MDV infection in chickens. We determined that MDV ICP27 is important but not required for replication in both cell culture and chickens. In addition, MDV ICP27 was not required for disease induction or oncogenicity but was required for chicken-to-chicken transmission. This study is important because it addresses the role of ICP27 during infection in the natural host and provides important information for the development of therapies to protect chickens against MD.


ICP27; herpesvirus; oncogenic virus; replication; transmission


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