Identification and in vitro characterization of a Marek's disease virus-encoded Ribonucleotide reductase.
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Marek's disease virus (MDV) encodes a ribonucleotide reductase (RR), a key regulatory enzyme in the DNA synthesis pathway. The gene coding for the RR of MDV is located in the unique long (UL) region of the genome. The large subunit is encoded by UL39 (RR1) and is predicted to comprise 860 amino acids whereas the small subunit encoded by UL40 (RR2) is predicted to be 343 amino acids long. Immunoprecipitation analysis of MDV-1 (GA strain)-infected cells with T81, a monoclonal antibody specific for RR of MDV, identified two major proteins of 90,000 and 40,000 daltons, corresponding to RR1 and RR2, respectively. In addition, RR was abundantly expressed in the cytoplasm of cells infected with 51 strains of MDV belonging to MDV serotypes 1, 2, and 3 as demonstrated by immunofluorescence staining. Northern blot analysis of RNA extracted from MDV-infected cells showed a major band of around 4.4 kb in size corresponding to the RR1 and RR2 transcripts. In vivo, RR was abundantly expressed in lymphoid organs and feather follicle epithelium of MDV-infected chickens during early cytolytic infection, as determined by immunohistochemistry. There was, however, no expression of RR in MDV-induced tumors in lymphoid organs. The abundant expression of RR in MDV-infected chicken may suggest an important role of RR in the conversion of ribonucleotides to deoxyribonucleotides for MDV DNA synthesis.