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Genetic characterization of a Marek’s disease virus strain isolated in Japan

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Background: Marek’s disease virus (MDV) causes malignant lymphomas in chickens (Marek’s disease, MD). MD is currently controlled by vaccination; however, MDV strains have a tendency to develop increased virulence. Distinct diversity and point mutations are present in the Meq proteins, the oncoproteins of MDV, suggesting that changes in protein function induced by amino acid substitutions might affect MDV virulence. We previously reported that recent MDV isolates in Japan display distinct mutations in Meq proteins from those observed in traditional MDV isolates in Japan, but similar to those in MDV strains isolated from other countries. Methods: To further investigate the genetic characteristics in Japanese field strains, we sequenced the whole genome of an MDV strain that was successfully isolated from a chicken with MD in Japan. A phylogenetic analysis of the meq gene was also performed. Results: Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the Meq proteins in most of the Japanese isolates were similar to those of Chinese and European strains, and the genomic sequence of the Japanese strain was classified into the Eurasian cluster. Comparison of coding region sequences among the Japanese strain and MDV strains from other countries revealed that the genetic characteristics of the Japanese strain were similar to those of Chinese and European strains. Conclusions: The MDV strains distributed in Asian and European countries including Japan seem to be genetically closer to each other than to MDV strains from North America. These findings indicate that the genetic diversities of MDV strains that emerged may have been dependent on the different vaccination-based control approaches.




Murata, S., Machida, Y., Isezaki, M., Maekawa, N., Okagawa, T., Konnai, S., & Ohashi, K. (2020). Genetic characterization of a Marek’s disease virus strain isolated in Japan. Virology Journal, 17(1).

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