Cloning of Gallid herpesvirus 3 (Marek's disease virus serotype-2) genome as infectious bacterial artificial chromosomes for analysis of viral gene functions

Marek's disease virus serotype 2 (Gallid herpesvirus 3) is a non-pathogenic alphaherpesvirus belonging to the Mardivirus genus, used widely in live vaccines against Marek's disease. Although the complete genome sequence of the MDV-2 strain HPRS-24 has been published, very little is known about the gene functions. As a first step for carrying out functional genomic analysis of MDV-2, the full-length genome of the MDV-2 vaccine strain SB-1 was cloned as an infectious bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clone pSB-1. Virus reconstituted from the pSB-1 clone showed morphological and growth characteristics in cell culture very similar to the parent virus. Generation of SB-1 constructs deleted in glycoprotein E and viruses expressing Citrine-UL35 fusion protein by the application of different BAC mutagenesis techniques demonstrated the amenability of the pSB-1 clone for reverse genetics approaches to identify molecular determinants associated with different biological features of this virus. The generation of replication-competent infectious clones of SB-1, together with those of CVI988 and herpesvirus of turkey strains described previously, completes the portfolio of generating infectious BAC clones of the MD vaccine strains belonging to all the three serotypes, paving the way for the application of reverse genetics for functional analysis of immunogenic determinants of these vaccines as well as for developing novel recombinant vectors.

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