Cloning of a very virulent plus, 686 strain of Marek's disease virus as a bacterial artificial chromosome.
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Bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) vectors were first developed to facilitate propagation and manipulation of large DNA fragments. This technology was later used to clone full-length genomes of large DNA viruses to study viral gene function. Marek's disease virus (MDV) is a highly oncogenic herpesvirus that causes rapid induction of T-cell lymphomas in chickens. Based on the virus's ability to cause disease in vaccinated chickens, MDV strains are classified into pathotypes, with the most virulent strains belonging to the very virulent plus (vv+) pathotype. Here we report the construction of BAC clones of 686 (686-BAC), a vv+ strain of MDV. Transfection of DNA isolated from two independent clones into duck embryo fibroblasts resulted in recovery of infectious virus. Pathogenesis studies showed that the BAC-derived 686 viruses were more virulent than Md5, a vv strain of MDV. With the use of a two-step red-mediated mutagenesis process, both copies of viral interleukin 8 (vIL-8) were deleted from the MDV genome, showing that 686-BACs were amenable to mutagenesis techniques. The generation of BAC clones from a vv+ strain of MDV is a significant step toward understanding molecular basis of MDV pathogenesis.