Marek's disease virus-encoded Meq gene is involved in transformation of lymphocytes but is dispensable for replication

Blanca Lupiani, Lucy F. Lee, Xiaoping Cui, Isabel Gimeno, Amy Anderson, Robin W. Morgan, Robert F. Silva, Richard L. Witter, Hsing Jien Kung, Sanjay M. Reddy

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189 Citations (Scopus)


Marek's disease virus (MDV) causes an acute lymphoproliferative disease in chickens, resulting in T cell lymphomas in visceral organs and peripheral nerves. Earlier studies have determined that the repeat regions of oncogenic serotype 1 MDV encode a basic leucine zipper protein, Meq, which structurally resembles the Jun/Fos family of transcriptional activators. Meq is consistently expressed in MDV-induced tumor cells and has been suggested as the MDV-associated oncogene. To study the function of Meq, we have generated an rMd5ΔMeq virus by deleting both copies of the meq gene from the genome of a very virulent strain of MDV. Growth curves in cultured fibroblasts indicated that Meq is dispensable for in vitro virus replication. In vivo replication in lymphoid organs and feather follicular epithelium was also not impaired, suggesting that Meq is dispensable for lytic infection in chickens. Reactivation of the rMd5ΔMeq virus from peripheral blood lymphocytes was reduced, suggesting that Meq is involved but not essential for latency. Pathogenesis experiments showed that the rMd5ΔMeq virus was fully attenuated in chickens because none of the infected chickens developed Marek's disease-associated lymphomas, suggesting that Meq is involved in lymphocyte transformation. A revertant virus that restored the expression of the meq gene, showed properties similar to those of the parental virus, confirming that Meq is involved in transformation but not in lytic replication in chickens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11815-11820
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number32
Publication statusPublished - Aug 10 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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