The physical and biological state of the Marek's disease virus (MDV) genome in avian leukosis virus (ALV)-transformed cells is characterized using cell lines established from ALV tumours co-infected with the SB-1 strain of MDV. The MDV genome within the ALV-transformed cells was found to be methylated at 5′ CpG 3′ dinucleotides. Less than 2% of the tumour cells expressed MDV antigen and only one virus plaque that was characteristic of an MDV infection was noted when tumour cells were cocultured with fibroblasts permissive for a productive MDV infection. However, when methylation of the MDV genome was prevented by culturing the tumour cell lines in the presence of 5-azacytidine, both MDV antigen expression and viral replication increased. Based on these results, it appears that MDV resides within the ALV-transformed cells in a latent state and that MDV latency might be influenced, to some extent, by methylation of the MDV genome.


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