Acta Vet. Brno 2008, 77: 231-237

Pathogenetical Characterization of MHV-76: a Spontaneous 9.5-Kilobase-Deletion Mutant of Murine Lymphotropic Gammaherpesvirus 68

A. Chalupková1, M. Hricová1, Z. Hrabovská1, J. Mistríková1,2

1Department of Microbiology and Virology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovak Republic
2Institute of Virology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovak Republic

Received September 26, 2007
Accepted February 14, 2008

Murid gammaherpesvirus 4 (MuHV-4) provides a small animal model for the study of animal gammaherpesviruses. MHV-76 is a spontaneous deletion mutant as compared to the prototype strain of MuHV-4 (MHV-68). The MHV-76 genome lacks at least 12 ORFs at the 5'-end including the M1, M2, M3 and M4 genes and the eight viral t-RNA-like genes. During 27 months of experimental infection of BALB/c mice we followed their pathogenesis, immunology and oncogenic properties. After intranasal infection with MHV-76, the infectious virus was detected in the blood, thymus, lungs, heart, liver, spleen, bone marrow, peritoneal macrophages, lymph nodes, kidneys, mammary glands, brain and small intestine. The acute phase of infection was attenuated, but the chronic phase of infection was accompanied with long persistence of virus not only in the lymphatic, but in the neural and glandular tissue, as well. In comparison with the prototype strain, splenomegaly and lymphocytosis was very low. Surprisingly, during 27 months the BALB/c mice infected with MHV-76 did not develop lymphoproliferative disorders like infectious mononucleosis, leukaemia or lymphomas. We hypothesize that the M4 gene, present in all oncogenic MHV isolates, might be related (directly or indirectly) to their transforming properties.