Virus Genes

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 753–766 | Cite as

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

  • Stephen J. Spatz
  • Yuguang Zhao
  • Lawrence Petherbridge
  • Lorraine P. Smith
  • Susan J. Baigent
  • Venugopal Nair
Original Paper


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.


Marek’s disease Gallid herpesvirus type 2 Oncogenicity Shedding-defective Genome Sequence 



We thank Jeremy Volkening for his excellent technical assistance and skills in bioinformatics and graphics. The authors would like to thank Dr. Laszlo Zsak for critical evaluation of this report. Part of this work was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), United Kingdom; and the United States Department of Agriculture CRIS program (Project Number 6612-32000-043).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen J. Spatz
    • 1
  • Yuguang Zhao
    • 2
  • Lawrence Petherbridge
    • 2
  • Lorraine P. Smith
    • 2
  • Susan J. Baigent
    • 2
  • Venugopal Nair
    • 2
  1. 1.Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of AgricultureAthensUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Animal Health, Compton LaboratoryComptonUK

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