Identification and characterization of Ovine Herpesvirus 2 microRNAs
Levy, Claire Safrai
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Ovine herpesvirus 2 (OvHV-2) is the causative agent of sheep-associated malignant catarrhal fever (MCF) in susceptible ruminants. Through an unknown mechanism, presence of the virus leads to proliferation of NK-like T cells that are not targetrestricted by the MHC class molecules. These host cells cause the symptoms found in MCF; fever, swollen lymph nodes, and necrotic lesions of the nasal, conjunctival, and oral mucosa, which usually leads to death of the host. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are ~22 nt RNA molecules expressed by eukaryotes and viruses that regulate genes post-transcriptionally. Viral miRNAs have been found to regulate cellular genes to control the cell cycle and have a role in pathogenesis. It was hypothesised that OvHV-2 expresses miRNAs and these play a role in MCF pathogenesis. The aim of this project was to determine if OvHV-2 encodes miRNAs. Bioinformatic analysis was conducted on deep sequencing data from RNA of OvHV-2- immortalised T cells. Candidate miRNAs were selected if they adhered to miRNA secondary structure. 46 candidate miRNAs were found, with three clusters on the minus strand; one at the 5’ end and the other two in a 9.3 kb region that contains no predicted open reading frames. The 8 most abundant candidates were successfully validated by northern hybridisation for small RNAs. The majority of the predicted targets for the 8 validated OvHV-2 miRNAs were from the OvHV-2 genome. This study adds OvHV-2 to the list of herpesviruses that encode miRNAs and provides another tool for studying the pathogenesis of MCF.