The DNA sequence of a 5·5 kbp RI fragment located in the short unique region (U) of the ‘highly oncogenic’ strain RB1B of Marek's disease virus (MDV) was determined. The sequence contained six open reading frames (ORFs), four of which were homologous to proteins mapping in the U region of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). These include the homologues of HSV-1 protein kinase, glycoprotein D (gD), glycoprotein I (gI) and US2 which is of unknown function. The MDV ORFs had a marked bias for A or T in the third codon position and analysis of the dinucleotide frequencies showed a marginal deficit in ApG/CpT but no overall deviation of CpG from random expectations. Comparison of genes in the U region of MDV to herpesvirus proteins confirmed and extended our previous observation that MDV is more closely related to alphaherpesviruses than to gamma-herpesviruses. We also showed that MDV possessed a homologue of HSV-1 gD which is lacking in varicellazoster virus (VZV) but that MDV probably lacked homologues of US4 and US5 of HSV-1. These results show that in contrast to the genes in the long unique region which were grossly collinear in HSV, VZV and MDV, those mapping in U show greater diversity.


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