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Genetic diversity of infectious laryngotracheitis virus during in vivo coinfection parallels viral replication and arises from recombination hot spots within the genome

Carlos Loncoman, Carol Hartley, Mauricio Coppo, Paola Vaz, Andres Diaz-Mendez, Glenn Browning, Maricarmen Garcia, Stephen Spatz, Joanne Devlin
Applied and environmental microbiology 2017 v.8 no.23 pp. 1-18
Gallid alphaherpesvirus 1, animal health, chickens, control methods, disease control, evolution, genetic recombination, genetic variation, genome, genotyping, industry, mixed infection, poultry diseases, progeny, respiratory tract diseases, single nucleotide polymorphism, specific pathogen-free animals, vaccines, virulence, virus replication, viruses
Recombination is a feature of many alphaherpesviruses that infect people and animals. Infectious laryngotracheitis virus (ILTV; Gallid alphaherpesvirus 1) causes respiratory disease in chickens, resulting in significant production losses in poultry industries worldwide. Natural (field) ILTV recombination is widespread, particularly recombination between attenuated ILTV vaccine strains to create virulent viruses. These virulent recombinants have had a major impact on animal health. Recently, the development of a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping assay for ILTV has helped to understand ILTV recombination in laboratory settings. In this study, we applied this SNP genotyping assay to further examine ILTV recombination in the natural host. Following coinoculation of specific-pathogen-free chickens, we examined the resultant progeny for evidence of viral recombination and characterized the diversity of the recombinants over time. The results showed that ILTV replication and recombination are closely related and that the recombinant viral progeny are most diverse 4 days after coinoculation, which is the peak of viral replication. Further, the locations of recombination breakpoints in a selection of the recombinant progeny, and in field isolates of ILTV from different geographical regions, were examined following full-genome sequencing and used to identify recombination hot spots in the ILTV genome.IMPORTANCE Alphaherpesviruses are common causes of disease in people and animals. Recombination enables genome diversification in many different species of alphaherpesviruses, which can lead to the evolution of higher levels of viral virulence. Using the alphaherpesvirus infectious laryngotracheitis virus (ILTV), we performed coinfections in the natural host (chickens) to demonstrate high levels of virus recombination. Higher levels of diversity in the recombinant progeny coincided with the highest levels of virus replication. In the recombinant progeny, and in field isolates, recombination occurred at greater frequency in recombination hot spot regions of the virus genome. Our results suggest that control measures that aim to limit viral replication could offer the potential to limit virus recombination and thus the evolution of virulence. The development and use of vaccines that are focused on limiting virus replication, rather than vaccines that are focused more on limiting clinical disease, may be indicated in order to better control disease.