2021 journal article
The role of Meq-vIL8 in regulating Marek’s disease virus pathogenesis
Journal of General Virology, 102(2).
Marek’s disease virus (MDV) is a highly cell-associated oncogenic alphaherpesvirus that causes T cell lymphoma in chickens. MDV-encoded Meq and vIL8 proteins play important roles in transformation and early cytolytic infection, respectively. Previous studies identified a spliced transcript, meq-vIL8 , formed by alternative splicing of meq and vIL8 genes in MDV lymphoblastoid tumour cells. To determine the role of Meq-vIL8 in MDV pathogenesis, we generated a recombinant MDV (MDV-meqΔSD) by mutating the splice donor site in the meq gene to abrogate the expression of Meq-vIL8. As expected, our results show that MDV-meqΔSD virus grows similarly to the parental and revertant viruses in cell culture, suggesting that Meq-vIL8 is dispensable for MDV growth in vitro . We further characterized the pathogenic properties of MDV-meqΔSD virus in chickens. Our results show that lack of Meq-vIL8 did not affect virus replication during the early cytolytic phase, as determined by immunohistochemistry analysis and/or viral genome copy number, but significantly enhanced viral DNA load in the late phase of infection in the spleen and brain of infected chickens. In addition, we observed that abrogation of Meq-vIL8 expression reduced the mean death time and increased the prevalence of persistent neurological disease, common features of highly virulent strains of MDV, in inoculated chickens. In conclusion, our study shows that Meq-vIL8 is an important virulence factor of MDV.