Novel mutation of avian leukosis virus subgroup J from Tibetan chickens

Tibetan chickens are descendants of the ancestral red jungle fowl Gallus gallus. Very little is known about pathogens in Tibetan chickens living in the high-altitude environment. Here, we report for the first time the detection and isolation of avian leukosis virus from Tibetan chickens, with all the avian leukosis virus-positive samples belonging to subgroup J. Phylogenetic analysis of the sequence revealed these viruses were in a new branch compared with previous reports. The 3'-end of the pol gene in the new strains showed 8-amino acid deletion, with 2 strains displaying a large-scale deletion in the hr2 region of gp85 protein. Among all the strains, several mutations in the primer binding site leader sequence and untranslated region, which came from Rous-associated virus, were identified. It is interesting that some of these mutations may have contributed to the competitive advantages to these isolates as observed from their increased replication in vitro. These results indicated that the virus isolates from Tibetan chickens can have competitive advantage over the other strains circulating in the poultry population in future.

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