Identification of a unique Marek's disease virus gene which encodes a 38-kilodalton phosphoprotein and is expressed in both lytically infected cells and latently infected lymphoblastoid tumor cells

Xinbin Chen, Paul J A Sondermeijer, Leland F. Velicer

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The identification of unique Marek's disease (MD) virus (MDV) antigens expressed not only in lytically infected cells but also in latently infected MD lymphoblastoid tumor cell lines is important in understanding the molecular mechanisms of latency and transformation by MDV, an oncogenic lymphotropic herpesvirus of chickens. Through cDNA and nucleotide sequence analysis, an open reading frame (designated the pp38 ORF) which encodes a predicted polypeptide of 290 amino acids was identified in BamHI-H. Demonstration that the pp38 ORF spans the junction of the MDV long unique and long internal repeat regions (MDV has an alphaherpesvirus genome structure) precludes the presence of the gene encoding the B-antigen complex (gp100, gp60, and gp49) in the same region of BamHI-H, where it was originally thought to exist. Duplication of the complete pp38 ORF was not observed in BamHI-D, but part of it (encoding 45 amino acids) was found in the long terminal repeat region of the fragment. By use of trpE-pp38 fusion proteins, antisera against pp38 were prepared. By immunoprecipitation and sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, a predominant virus-specific 38,000-dalton polypeptide (designated pp38) and a minor 24,000-dalton polypeptide (designated p24) were found. No precursor-product relationship was found between pp38 and p24 by pulse-chase analysis, and only pp38 was detected by Western blot (immunoblot) analysis with antiserum to pp38. pp38 was found to be phosphorylated and present in oncogenic serotype 1- but not nononcogenic serotype 3-infected cells. Expression of the gene encoding pp38 was relatively insensitive to phosphonoacetic acid inhibition, suggesting that pp38 may belong to one of the early classes of herpesvirus proteins. pp38 was also detected in the latently infected MSB-1 lymphoblastoid tumor cell line. The detection of antibody against pp38 in immune chicken sera indicates that pp38 is an immunogen in birds with MD. Most of the properties described here for a protein detected by methods based on finding the ORF first are identical to those of a 38-kDa phosphoprotein reported by others, suggesting that they are the same. Collectively, the data reported here provide (i) more definitive information on the complete ORF of another MDV gene and the protein that it encodes, (ii) clarification of the gene content within a specific region of the MDV genome, and (iii) the molecular means to conduct further studies to determine whether pp38 plays a role in MDV latency and transformation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-94
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1992
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology

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