Restriction endonuclease analysis of the DNA extracted orf virus strain NZ2, which had been serially passaged in primary bovine testis cells, revealed a population of variants that had over-grown the wild-type virus. At least three distinct mutant forms were identified in which the right end of the genome had been duplicated and translocated to the left end, accompanied by deletions of sequences at the left end. Sequencing of a single variant isolated from the heterogeneous population revealed that recombination had occurred between non-homologous sequences. In this case, 6·6 kb of DNA at the left end of the genome had been replaced by 19·3 kb from the right end. The transposition resulted in the deletion at the left end of 3·3 kb of DNA encoding three genes and the terminal sequence of a fourth gene. The three genes completely deleted were a homologue of dUTPase, a gene that encodes a protein containing ankyrin-like repeats and a homologue of the 5K gene of the vaccinia virus WR strain. Experimental inoculation of sheep showed that the genes are also non-essential , but that the size of the lesion was reduced, compared with that induced by the wild-type, and resolved more rapidly.


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