Bovine herpesvirus 1 (BHV-1) is a major pathogen of cattle, causing significant disease including immunosuppression in infected animals. In vitro, the surface expression of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules, crucial for an appropriate anti-viral immune response of the host, is down-regulated by BHV-1 infection. Northern blot analyses revealed that the mRNAs for MHC class I and class II molecules were significantly down-regulated in BHV-1 infected cells, starting as early as 2 h after infection. Furthermore, mRNA expression of the two house keeping genes actin and glyceraldehyde-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) was also repressed after infection. This BHV-1 induced effect on cellular metabolism resembled the virion host shutoff (vhs) activity of herpes simplex virus (HSV). Similar to the HSV vhs activity, the putative BHV-1 vhs activity was not abrogated in cells infected in the presence of actinomycin D (ActD) which suggested that no viral gene expression is required for the vhs function and the putative vhs protein is associated with the virion. Sequence comparison indicated a BHV-1 open reading frame having a 60% similarity to the HSV vhs sequence. This putative BHV-1 open reading frame contained the four conserved regions of the alphaherpesvirus vhs protein. Since an HSV vhs-mutant exhibited less virulence and good immunogenicity, we suggest that a BHV-1 vhs- mutant may hold promising potential as a candidate vaccine.
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