Identification of a neurovirulence factor from Marek's disease virus

In addition to tumors, Marek's disease (MD) virus (MDV) can induce a variety of syndromes linked to the central nervous system. In fact, early descriptions of MD suggested that it was a condition affecting mainly the nervous system. Cytokines and other immune-related genes have been suggested to play a crucial role in MDV-mediated neuropathology, but the mechanisms behind the viral-induced neurologic dysfunction are still poorly understood. In the present study we have used reverse genetic strategies to show that pp14 is not involved in the oncogenic phenotype of MDV1 and is not required for viral replication; however, we provide evidence indicating that the absence of pp14 expression is correlated with increased survival of MDV1-infected chickens, and that its expression is associated with enhanced viral neurovirulence. Our data identify for the first time pp14 as a neurovirulence factor from MDV1 and open the possibility to investigate the molecular mechanisms by which pp14 mediates the damage to the avian nervous system.

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