Marek's disease virus-encoded Meq gene is involved in transformation of lymphocytes but is dispensable for replication
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Marek's disease virus (MDV) causes an acute lymphoproliferative disease in chickens, resulting in T cell lymphomas in visceral organs and peripheral nerves. Earlier studies have determined that the repeat regions of oncogenic serotype 1 MDV encode a basic leucine zipper protein, Meq, which structurally resembles the Jun/Fos family of transcriptional activators. Meq is consistently expressed in MDV-induced tumor cells and has been suggested as the MDV-associated oncogene. To study the function of Meq, we have generated an rMd5DeltaMeq virus by deleting both copies of the meq gene from the genome of a very virulent strain of MDV. Growth curves in cultured fibroblasts indicated that Meq is dispensable for in vitro virus replication. In vivo replication in lymphoid organs and feather follicular epithelium was also not impaired, suggesting that Meq is dispensable for lytic infection in chickens. Reactivation of the rMd5DeltaMeq virus from peripheral blood lymphocytes was reduced, suggesting that Meq is involved but not essential for latency. Pathogenesis experiments showed that the rMd5DeltaMeq virus was fully attenuated in chickens because none of the infected chickens developed Marek's disease-associated lymphomas, suggesting that Meq is involved in lymphocyte transformation. A revertant virus that restored the expression of the meq gene, showed properties similar to those of the parental virus, confirming that Meq is involved in transformation but not in lytic replication in chickens.
author list (cited authors)
Lupiani, B., Lee, L. F., Cui, X., Gimeno, I., Anderson, A., Morgan, R. W., ... Reddy, S. M.