Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesviruses EEHV1A, EEHV1B, and EEHV2 from Cases of Hemorrhagic Disease Are Highly Diverged from Other Mammalian Herpesviruses and May Form a New Subfamily

Author(s): Laura K. Richman, Jian-Chao Zong, Erin M. Latimer, Justin Lock, Robert C. Fleischer, Sarah Y. Heaggans, Gary S. Hayward

Publication: Journal of Virology

Publication Date: 2014

Abstract: A family of novel endotheliotropic herpesviruses (EEHVs) assigned to the genus Proboscivirus have been identified as the cause of fatal hemorrhagic disease in 70 young Asian elephants worldwide. Although EEHV cannot be grown in cell culture, we have determined a total of 378 kb of viral genomic DNA sequence directly from clinical tissue samples from six lethal cases and two survivors. Overall, the data obtained encompass 57 genes, including orthologues of 32 core genes common to all herpesviruses, 14 genes found in some other herpesviruses, plus 10 novel genes, including a single large putative transcriptional regulatory protein (ORF-L). On the basis of differences in gene content and organization plus phylogenetic analyses of conserved core proteins that have just 20% to 50% or less identity to orthologues in other herpesviruses, we propose that EEHV1A, EEHV1B, and EEHV2 could be considered a new Deltaherpesvirinae subfamily of mammalian herpesviruses that evolved as an intermediate branch between the Betaherpesvirinae and Gammaherpesvirinae. Unlike cytomegaloviruses, EEHV genomes encode ribonucleotide kinase B subunit (RRB), thymidine kinase (TK), and UL9-like origin binding protein (OBP) proteins and have an alphaherpesvirus-like dyad symmetry Ori-Lyt domain. They also differ from all known betaherpesviruses by having a 40-kb large-scale inversion of core gene blocks I, II, and III. EEHV1 and EEHV2 DNA differ uniformly by more than 25%, but EEHV1 clusters into two major subgroups designated EEHV1A and EEHV1B with ancient partially chimeric features. Whereas large segments are nearly identical, three nonadjacent loci totaling 15 kb diverge by between 21 and 37%. One strain of EEHV1B analyzed is interpreted to be a modern partial recombinant with EEHV1A.

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