Marek's disease virus (MDV), an alphaherpesvirus, is the causative agent of a lethal disease in chickens characterized by generalized nerve inflammation and rapid lymphoma development. The extensive colinearity of the MDV genome with those of related herpesviruses has eased functional characterization of many MDV genes. However, MDV encodes a number of unique open reading frames (ORFs) that have not yet been investigated regarding their coding potential and the functions of their products. Among these unique ORFs are two putative ORFs, ORF011 and ORF012, which are found at the extreme left end of the MDV unique-long region. Using reverse transcription PCR we showed that ORF011 and 012 are not individual genes, but encode a single gene through mRNA splicing of a small intron resulting in the novel ORF012. We generated an ORF012-null virus using an infectious clone of MDV strain RB-1B. The deletion virus had a marked growth defect in vitro and could not be passaged in cultured cells suggesting an essential role for the ORF012 product for virus replication. Further studies revealed that p012 localized to the nucleus in transfected and infected cells and we identified by site-directed mutagenesis and GFP reporter fusion assays a nuclear localization signal (NLS) that was mapped to a 23 amino acid sequence at the protein's C-terminus. Nuclear export was blocked using leptomycin B suggesting a potential role for p012 as a nuclear/cytoplasmic shuttling protein. Finally, p012 is phosphorylated at multiple residues, a modification that could possibly regulate its subcellular distribution.
Mareks disease (MD) is a highly transmissible, herpesvirus-associated malignancy of chickens and turkeys caused by Mareks disease virus (MDV). MD is currently controlled through the use of nonsterilizing vaccines composed of antigenically related, apathogenic herpesviruses Mardivirus 2 (MDV-2), Meleagrid herpesvirus 1 (herpesvirus of turkeys, HVT), or attenuated MDV-1 strain CVI988 (Rispens). Since the mid-1960s, field strains of MDV have increased in virulence, due, in part, to the widespread use of vaccines since the early 1970s. One mutation that we have identified common to very virulent field strains (vv and vv+MDVs) since the 1990s has been a mutation in the UL1 gene, encoding glycoprotein L (gL). This mutation, a 12-nucleotide (nt) deletion in the signal peptide of gL, has been associated with increased virulence and decreased vaccine protection in the context of challenge with a vv+MDV, strain TK. To determine whether this mutation alone was sufficient to confer increased virulence, we introduced this mutation into the transmission-competent pRB-1B bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) using two-step, Red-mediated recombination. The resulting mutant, pRB-1BgLdelta, was tested for changes in replication in cell culture using multistep growth curves, plaque size analysis, viral burst analysis, and the ability to compete with the parental virus when co-transfected at different ratios and sequentially passaged. In addition, we examined this mutant for changes in pathogenicity in inoculated and contact-exposed unvaccinated and vaccinated chickens. Our data show minor differences in plaque sizes in cell culture, but no discernible changes in the infection of specific-pathogen-free (SPF) leghorn chickens. We therefore conclude that although this mutation is indeed common to MDV field strains isolated in the eastern United States, it is insufficient to confer increased virulence or loss of vaccine protection previously observed for a vv+MDV strain having this mutation.
Mareks disease virus (MDV) encodes an ubiquitin-specific protease (USP) within its UL36 gene. USP is highly conserved among herpesviruses and was shown to be important for MDV replication and pathogenesis in MDVs natural host, the chicken. To further investigate the role of MDV USP, several recombinant (r) MDVs were generated and their in vitro phenotypes were evaluated using plaque size and growth kinetics assays. We discovered that the N-terminus of pUL36 is essential for MDV replication and could not be complemented by ectopic expression of MDV USP. In addition, we demonstrated that the region located between the conserved glutamine (Q85) and leucine (L106) residues comprising the active site cysteine (C98) is also essential for MDV replication. Based on the analyses of the rMDVs generated here, we concluded that MDV USP likely contributes to the structure and/or stability of pUL36 and affects replication and oncogenesis of MDV beyond its enzymatic activity.
Mareks disease virus (MDV), a lymphotropic alphaherpesvirus, causes Mareks disease (MD) in chickens. MD is characterized by neurological signs, chronic wasting, and T cell lymphomas that predominate in the visceral organs. MDV replicates in a highly cell-associated manner in vitro and in vivo, with infectious virus particles being released only from feather follicle epithelial (FFE) cells in the skin. Virus produced and shed from FFE cells allows transmission of MDV from infected to naïve chickens, but the mechanisms or roles of differential virus gene expression have remained elusive. Here, we generated recombinant MDV in which we fused enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) to the C terminus of the tegument protein pUL47 (vUL47-EGFP) or pUL49 (vUL49-EGFP). While vUL49-EGFP was highly attenuated in vitro and in vivo, vUL47-EGFP showed unaltered pathogenic potential and stable production of pUL47-EGFP, which facilitated direct analysis of pUL47 expression in cells and tissues. Our studies revealed that pUL47-EGFP is expressed at low levels and localizes to the nucleus during lytic replication in vitro and in lymphocytes in the spleen in vivo, while it is undetectable in tumors. In contrast, pUL47-EGFP is highly abundant and localizes predominantly in the cytoplasm in FFE cells in the skin, where MDV is shed into the environment. We concluded that differential expression and localization of MDV pUL47-EGFP tegument protein is potentially important for the unique cell-associated nature of MDV in vitro and in lymphocytes in vivo, as well as production of free virus in FFE cells.
Telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) and telomerase RNA (TR) represent the enzymatically active components of telomerase. In the complex, TR provides the template for the addition of telomeric repeats to telomeres, a protective structure at the end of linear chromosomes. Human TR with a mutation in the template region has been previously shown to inhibit proliferation of cancer cells in vitro. In this report, we examined the effects of a mutation in the template of a virus encoded TR (vTR) on herpesvirus-induced tumorigenesis in vivo. For this purpose, we used the oncogenic avian herpesvirus Mareks disease virus (MDV) as a natural virus-host model for lymphomagenesis. We generated recombinant MDV in which the vTR template sequence was mutated from AATCCCAATC to ATATATATAT (vAU5) by two-step Red-mediated mutagenesis. Recombinant viruses harboring the template mutation replicated with kinetics comparable to parental and revertant viruses in vitro. However, mutation of the vTR template sequence completely abrogated virus-induced tumor formation in vivo, although the virus was able to undergo low-level lytic replication. To confirm that the absence of tumors was dependent on the presence of mutant vTR in the telomerase complex, a second mutation was introduced in vAU5 that targeted the P6.1 stem loop, a conserved region essential for vTR-TERT interaction. Absence of vTR-AU5 from the telomerase complex restored virus-induced lymphoma formation. To test if the attenuated vAU5 could be used as an effective vaccine against MDV, we performed vaccination-challenge studies and determined that vaccination with vAU5 completely protected chickens from lethal challenge with highly virulent MDV. Taken together, our results demonstrate 1) that mutation of the vTR template sequence can completely abrogate virus-induced tumorigenesis, likely by the inhibition of cancer cell proliferation, and 2) that this strategy could be used to generate novel vaccine candidates against virus-induced lymphoma.
Some herpesviruses, particularly lymphotropic viruses such as Mareks disease virus (MDV) and human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6), integrate their DNA into host chromosomes. MDV and HHV-6, among other herpesviruses, harbor telomeric repeats (TMRs) identical to host telomeres at either end of their linear genomes. Using MDV as a natural virus-host model, we show that herpesvirus TMRs facilitate viral genome integration into host telomeres and that integration is important for establishment of latency and lymphoma formation. Integration into host telomeres also aids in reactivation from the quiescent state of infection. Our results and the presence of TMRs in many herpesviruses suggest that integration mediated by viral TMRs is a conserved mechanism, which ensures faithful virus genome maintenance in host cells during cell division and allows efficient mobilization of dormant viral genomes. This finding is of particular importance as reactivation is critical for virus spread between susceptible individuals and is necessary for continued herpesvirus evolution and survival.
Mareks disease virus (MDV) causes a devastating disease in chickens characterized by the development of lymphoblastoid tumors in multiple organs and is transmitted from the skin of infected chickens. We have previously reported that the U(S)2, U(L)44 (glycoprotein C [gC]), and U(L)13 genes are essential for horizontal transmission of MDV in gain-of-function studies using an a priori spread-deficient virus that was based on an infectious clone from the highly virulent RB-1B virus (pRB-1B). To precisely determine the importance of each individual gene in the process of chicken-to-chicken transmission, we used the transmission-restored clone that readily transmits horizontally and mutated each individual gene in loss-of-function experiments. Two independent U(S)2-negative mutants transmitted horizontally, eliminating U(S)2 as being essential for the process. In contrast, the absence of gC expression or mutating the invariant lysine essential for U(L)13 kinase activity abolished horizontal spread of MDV between chickens.
Mareks disease virus (MDV) is an alphaherpesvirus that causes lethal T-cell lymphomas in chickens. MDV is unique in that it harbors two copies of a viral telomerase RNA subunit (vTR) in its genome exhibiting 88% sequence identity to the chicken orthologue, chTR. The minimal telomerase ribonucleoprotein complex consists of a protein subunit with reverse transcriptase activity (TERT) and TR. Physiologically, the complex compensates for the progressive telomere shortening that occurs during mitosis and is involved in the process of cellular immortalization. Previous studies showed that MDV vTR performes an auxiliary function during oncogenesis. Comparative in vitro analysis of the viral and chicken TR promoters revealed that the vTR promoter (PvTR) was up to 3-fold more efficient than the chTR promoter (PchTR) in avian cells and that the stronger transcriptional activity of PvTR resulted largely from an E-box located two nucleotides downstream of the transcriptional start site of the vTR gene. To test the hypothesis that PvTR is required for vTR expression and, hence, efficient tumor formation, we generated a recombinant virus, vPchTR+/+, in which the vTR promoter was replaced by that of chTR. In vivo, growth of vPchTR+/+ was indistinguishable from that of parental virus; however, tumor induction was reduced by >50% and lymphomas were smaller and less disseminated when compared to those induced by parental virus. We concluded that PvTR is not required for lytic replication in vivo but is essential for efficient transcription of vTR and thereby critical for efficient MDV lymphoma formation.
Mareks disease is a devastating neoplastic disease of chickens caused by Mareks disease virus (MDV). MDV down-regulates surface expression of MHC class I molecules, although the mechanism has remained elusive. MDV harbors a UL49.5 homolog that has been shown to down-regulate MHC class I expression in other Varicelloviruses. Using in vitro assays, we showed that MDV pUL49.5 down-regulates MHC class I directly and identified its cytoplasmic tail as essential for this function. In vivo, viruses lacking the cytoplasmic tail of pUL49.5 showed no differences in MD pathogenesis compared to revertant viruses in highly susceptible chickens of the B(19)B(19) MHC class I haplotype, while there was a mild reduction in pathogenic potential of the deletion viruses in chickens more resistant to MD pathogenesis (MHC:B(21)B(21)). We concluded that the pathogenic effect of MHC class I down-regulation mediated by pUL49.5 is small because virus immune evasion possibly requires more than one viral protein.
Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein complex involved in the maintenance of telomeres, a protective structure at the distal ends of chromosomes. The enzyme complex contains two main components, telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT), the catalytic subunit, and telomerase RNA (TR), which serves as a template for the addition of telomeric repeats (TTAGGG)(n). Mareks disease virus (MDV), an oncogenic herpesvirus inducing fatal lymphoma in chickens, encodes a TR homologue, viral TR (vTR), which significantly contributes to MDV-induced lymphomagenesis. As recent studies have suggested that TRs possess functions independently of telomerase activity, we investigated if the tumor-promoting properties of MDV vTR are dependent on formation of a functional telomerase complex. The P6.1 stem-loop of TR is known to mediate TR-TERT complex formation and we show here that interaction of vTR with TERT and, consequently, telomerase activity was efficiently abrogated by the disruption of the vTR P6.1 stem-loop (P6.1mut). Recombinant MDV carrying the P6.1mut stem-loop mutation were generated and tested for their behavior in the natural host in vivo. In contrast to viruses lacking vTR, all animals infected with the P6.1mut viruses developed MDV-induced lymphomas, but onset of tumor formation was significantly delayed. P6.1mut viruses induced enhanced metastasis, indicating functionality of non-complexed vTR in tumor dissemination. We discovered that RPL22, a cellular factor involved in T-cell development and virus-induced transformation, directly interacts with wild-type and mutant vTR and is, consequently, relocalized to the nucleoplasm. Our study provides the first evidence that expression of TR, in this case encoded by a herpesvirus, is pro-oncogenic in the absence of telomerase activity.
Two primary broiler breeder lines, A and B, were examined for their potential to produce nitric oxide (NO) after stimulating splenocytes from 20-day-old embryos with lipopolysaccharide and interferon-gamma. Significant differences were found between lines A and B. Overall, line A had a higher response than line B, but line A also had a large degree of variation between individual sire families. Selection for high and low responders within line A resulted in the segregation of high- and low-responder sire families. Offspring from sire families selected for high and low NO responses and from a nonselected control group from line A were challenged with RB-1B Mareks disease (MD) virus to determine whether these differences could be used to select for improved resistance to MD. Virus isolation rates at 6 and 10 days postinfection were not significantly different, but unexpectedly, the MD incidence in the high-responder group was significantly higher than in the other two groups.
Equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1), a member of the Alphaherpesvirinae, is spread via nasal secretions and causes respiratory disease, neurological disorders and abortions. The virus is a significant equine pathogen, but current EHV-1 vaccines are only partially protective and effective metaphylactic and therapeutic agents are not available. Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), delivered intranasally, could prove a valuable alternative for infection control. siRNAs against two essential EHV-1 genes, encoding the viral helicase (Ori) and glycoprotein B, were evaluated for their potential to decrease EHV-1 infection in a mouse model. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FNDINGS: siRNA therapy in vitro significantly reduced virus production and plaque size. Viral titers were reduced 80-fold with 37.5 pmol of a single siRNA or with as little as 6.25 pmol of each siRNA when used in combination. siRNA therapy in vivo significantly reduced viral replication and clinical signs. Intranasal treatment did not require a transport vehicle and proved effective when given up to 12 h before or after infection.
Mareks disease virus (MDV) or Gallid herpesvirus 2 (GaHV-2) is a lymphotropic alphaherpesvirus and causes Mareks disease. Former studies have demonstrated that MDV is spread from chicken to chicken about 2 wk postexposure as infectious dander shed from infected chickens. More recent reports, using highly sensitive quantitative PCR analyses of dander from infected chickens, suggested that MDV replicates and is shed from the chicken much earlier (5-7 days). However, detection of viral DNA in chicken dander does not indicate whether fully infectious virus is present. To determine if viral replication is present in the skin of infected chickens at these early times, expression of a late viral protein indicative of fully productive virus replication was evaluated using fluorescent microscopy. To do this, highly virulent and attenuated recombinant (r)MDV was generated that abundantly expresses the monomeric red fluorescent protein fused to the late UL47 (VP13/14) protein in feather follicle epithelial cells. Detection of viral DNA could be detected in the skin of infected chickens as early as 6 days postinfection (p.i.), consistent with previous reports detecting viral DNA in dander shed from infected chickens. Replication of virulent rMDV was evident in the feather follicles as early as 8 days p.i., while attenuated rMDV replication in the feather follicles was delayed 1-2 days. Former studies, using less sensitive techniques, suggested viral protein expression to occur about 10-12 days p.i. Undoubtedly differences in time of detection can partly be explained by multiple factors including the pathotype of virus, the route of infection, and the age and genetic line of the infected chickens used in different studies. In summary, though viral DNA can be detected as early as 6 days p.i., late viral protein expression, indicative of infectious virus production, occurs 2-3 days after DNA detection, but earlier than previously thought.
Hosts can be infected with multiple herpesviruses, known as superinfection; however, superinfection of cells is rare due to the phenomenon known as superinfection inhibition. It is believed that dual infection of cells occurs in nature, based on studies examining genetic exchange between homologous alphaherpesviruses in the host, but to date, this has not been directly shown in a natural model. In this report, gallid herpesvirus 2 (GaHV-2), better known as Mareks disease virus (MDV), was used in its natural host, the chicken, to determine whether two homologous alphaherpesviruses can infect the same cells in vivo. MDV shares close similarities with the human alphaherpesvirus, varicella zoster virus (VZV), with respect to replication in the skin and exit from the host. Recombinant MDVs were generated that express either the enhanced GFP (eGFP) or monomeric RFP (mRFP) fused to the UL47 (VP13/14) herpesvirus tegument protein. These viruses exhibited no alteration in pathogenic potential and expressed abundant UL47-eGFP or -mRFP in feather follicle epithelial cells in vivo. Using laser scanning confocal microscopy, it was evident that these two similar, but distinguishable, viruses were able to replicate within the same cells of their natural host. Evidence of superinfection inhibition was also observed. These results have important implications for two reasons. First, these results show that during natural infection, both dual infection of cells and superinfection inhibition can co-occur at the cellular level. Secondly, vaccination against MDV with homologous alphaherpesvirus like attenuated GaHV-2, or non-oncogenic GaHV-3 or meleagrid herpesvirus (MeHV-1) has driven the virus to greater virulence and these results implicate the potential for genetic exchange between homologous avian alphaherpesviruses that could drive increased virulence. Because the live attenuated varicella vaccine is currently being administered to children, who in turn could be superinfected by wild-type VZV, this could potentiate recombination events of VZV as well.
Mareks disease (MD) is a devastating oncogenic viral disease of chickens caused by Gallid herpesvirus 2, or MD virus (MDV). MDV glycoprotein C (gC) is encoded by the alphaherpesvirus UL44 homolog and is essential for the horizontal transmission of MDV (K. W. Jarosinski and N. Osterrieder, J. Virol. 84:7911-7916, 2010). Alphaherpesvirus gC proteins are type 1 membrane proteins and are generally anchored in cellular membranes and the virion envelope by a short transmembrane domain. However, the majority of MDV gC is secreted in vitro, although secondary-structure analyses predict a carboxy-terminal transmembrane domain. In this report, two alternative mRNA splice variants were identified by reverse transcription (RT)-PCR analyses, and the encoded proteins were predicted to specify premature stop codons that would lead to gC proteins that lack the transmembrane domain. Based on the size of the intron removed for each UL44 (gC) transcript, they were termed gC104 and gC145. Recombinant MDV viruses were generated in which only full-length viral gC (vgCfull), gC104 (vgC104), or gC145 (vgC145) was expressed. Predictably, gCfull was expressed predominantly as a membrane-associated protein, while both gC104 and gC145 were secreted, suggesting that the dominant gC variants expressed in vitro are the spliced variants. In experimentally infected chickens, the expression of each of the gC variants individually did not alter replication or disease induction. However, horizontal transmission was reduced compared to that of wild-type or revertant viruses when the expression of only a single gC was allowed, indicating that all three forms of gC are required for the efficient transmission of MDV in chickens.
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