Marek's disease (MD) is a lymphoproliferative disease important to the poultry industry worldwide; it is caused by Gallid alphaherpesvirus 2 (GaHV-2). The virulence of GaHV-2 isolates has shifted over the years from mild to virulent, very virulent and very virulent +. Nowadays the disease is controlled by vaccination, but field strains of increased virulence are emerging worldwide. Economic losses due to MD are mostly associated with its acute form, characterized by visceral lymphomas. The present study aimed to molecularly classify a group of 13 GaHV-2 strains detected in vaccinated Italian commercial chicken flocks during acute MD outbreaks, and to scrutinize the ability of predicting GaHV-2 virulence, according to the meq gene sequence. The full-length meq genes were amplified, and the obtained amino acid (aa) sequences were analysed, focusing mainly on the number of stretches of four proline molecules (PPPP) within the transactivation domain. Phylogenetic analysis was carried out with the Maximum Likelihood method using the obtained aa sequences, and the sequences of Italian strains detected in backyard flocks and of selected strains retrieved from GenBank. All the analysed strains showed 100% sequence identity in the meq gene, which encodes a Meq protein of 339 aa. The Meq protein includes four PPPP motifs in the transactivation domain and an interruption of a PPPP motif due to a proline-to-serine substitution at position 218. These features are typically encountered in highly virulent isolates. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the analysed strains belonged to a cluster that includes high-virulence GaHV-2 strains detected in Italian backyard flocks and a hypervirulent Polish strain. Our results support the hypothesis that the virulence of field isolates can be suggested by meq aa sequence analysis.

Marek's disease viruses circulating in commercial poultry in Italy in the years 2015–2018 are closely related by their meq gene phylogeny

Mescolini G.
;
Lupini C.;Catelli E.
2020

Abstract

Marek's disease (MD) is a lymphoproliferative disease important to the poultry industry worldwide; it is caused by Gallid alphaherpesvirus 2 (GaHV-2). The virulence of GaHV-2 isolates has shifted over the years from mild to virulent, very virulent and very virulent +. Nowadays the disease is controlled by vaccination, but field strains of increased virulence are emerging worldwide. Economic losses due to MD are mostly associated with its acute form, characterized by visceral lymphomas. The present study aimed to molecularly classify a group of 13 GaHV-2 strains detected in vaccinated Italian commercial chicken flocks during acute MD outbreaks, and to scrutinize the ability of predicting GaHV-2 virulence, according to the meq gene sequence. The full-length meq genes were amplified, and the obtained amino acid (aa) sequences were analysed, focusing mainly on the number of stretches of four proline molecules (PPPP) within the transactivation domain. Phylogenetic analysis was carried out with the Maximum Likelihood method using the obtained aa sequences, and the sequences of Italian strains detected in backyard flocks and of selected strains retrieved from GenBank. All the analysed strains showed 100% sequence identity in the meq gene, which encodes a Meq protein of 339 aa. The Meq protein includes four PPPP motifs in the transactivation domain and an interruption of a PPPP motif due to a proline-to-serine substitution at position 218. These features are typically encountered in highly virulent isolates. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the analysed strains belonged to a cluster that includes high-virulence GaHV-2 strains detected in Italian backyard flocks and a hypervirulent Polish strain. Our results support the hypothesis that the virulence of field isolates can be suggested by meq aa sequence analysis.
Mescolini G.; Lupini C.; Davidson I.; Massi P.; Tosi G.; Catelli E.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/726003
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