Selection of a recombinant Marek's disease virus in vivo through expression of the Marek's EcoRI-Q (Meq)-encoded oncoprotein: characterization of an rMd5-based mutant expressing the Meq of strain RB-1B. Academic Article uri icon


  • Marek's disease (MD) is a highly contagious viral disease of chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) caused by MD virus (MDV), characterized by paralysis, neurologic signs, and the rapid onset of T-cell lymphomas. MDV-induced T-cell transformation requires a basic leucine zipper protein called Marek's EcoRI-Q-encoded protein (Meq). We have identified mutations in the coding sequence of Meq that correlated with virus pathotype (virulent, very virulent, and very virulent plus). The aim of this study was to determine whether recombinant viruses could be isolated based on Meq expression through in vivo selection. Chicken embryo fibroblasts (CEFs) were cotransfected with an rMd5 strain-based Meq deletion virus (rMd5deltaMeq) and meq loci from strains representing different pathotypes of MDV. Transfected CEFs were inoculated into chickens in two independent studies. We were able to isolate a single recombinant virus, rMDV-1137, in a contact-exposed chicken. rMDV-1137 had recombined two copies of the meq gene of RB-1B and was found to have pathogenicity similar to both RB-1B and rMd5 parental strains. We found the RB-1B- and rMd5-induced lymphomas showed differences in composition and that rMDV-1137-induced lymphomas were intermediate in their composition. We were able to establish cell lines from both RB-1B- (MDCC-UD35, -UD37) and rMDV-1137 (MDCC-UD36, -UD38)-induced, but not rMd5-induced, lymphomas. To date, no rMd5- or parent Md5-transformed T-cell lines have been reported. Our results suggest that 1) a recombinant MDV can be selected on the basis of oncogenicity; 2) changes in Meq sequence seem to affect tumor composition and the ability to establish cell lines; and 3) in addition to meq, other genomic loci affect MDV pathogenicity and oncogenicity.

published proceedings

  • Avian Dis

author list (cited authors)

  • Kumar, P., Dong, H., Lenihan, D., Gaddamanugu, S., Katneni, U., Shaikh, S., ... Parcells, M. S.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Kumar, Pankaj||Dong, Huimin||Lenihan, Dawn||Gaddamanugu, Syamsundar||Katneni, Upendra||Shaikh, Shireen||Tavlarides-Hontz, Phaedra||Reddy, Sanjay M||Peters, Wachen||Parcells, Mark S

publication date

  • June 2012