The Marek’s disease virus (MDV) genome contains 2 sets of 132-bp tandem repeat sequences. An increase in 132-bp repeat units has been associated with attenuation of oncogenicity during in vitro passage. By cloning entire genomes, we demonstrated that the copy number of 132-bp repeats can differ within an individual MDV genome. The stability of the 132-bp repeats during cell passage depended on the initial copy number. When both sets of repeats contained 2 copies, the copy number remained stable, while if even 1 set of repeats contained 6 copies, repeat expansion occurred relatively quickly. This expansion did not affect the in vitro growth curve. However, when MDV clones with low and high copy numbers were passed together, genomes with expanded repeats rapidly predominated, mimicking the behavior of naturally-occurring MDV. These results suggest that the preponderance of high-copy repeats after passage reflects intracellular copy number within individual infected cells rather than an influence on the spread of the virus.
Archives of Virology – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 1, 2006
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