Comparative analysis of the complete genome sequences of two Australian origin live attenuated vaccines of infectious laryngotracheitis virus.
ABSTRACT Infectious laryngotracheitis virus (ILTV) is an alphaherpesvirus that causes acute respiratory disease in poultry. Live attenuated ILTV vaccines have been used extensively to help control outbreaks of disease. Two Australian-origin attenuated vaccine strains, SA2 and A20 ILTV, are commercially available and are in frequent use in Australia. Both these vaccines are of chicken embryo origin (CEO). The A20 ILTV strain was developed from the SA2 ILTV strain by sequential passage of SA2 ILTV in tissue culture in order to reduce its residual virulence. Previous studies in our laboratories have demonstrated the greater attenuation of A20 ILTV under controlled experimental conditions, but the genetic basis of the in vivo phenotypes of A20 and SA2 ILTV has not been elucidated. In this study, the genetic differences between A20 and SA2 ILTV were examined by performing complete genome sequencing and comparative analysis. The genome sequences were also compared to a reference sequence from another CEO ILTV vaccine (Serva ILTV: GenBank accession number HQ_630064) of European-origin. Additional in ovo studies to assess cell to cell spread were performed in order to allow further comparisons of the pathogenicity of SA2 and A20 ILTV. The sequencing results showed that the genome sizes of SA2 and A20 ILTV were 152,975 and 152,978bp, respectively, while Serva ILTV had a genome size of 152,630bp. The genomes of SA2 and A20 ILTV shared 99.9% nucleotide sequence identity with each other, but only 99.2% identity with Serva ILTV. In complete genome alignments between SA2 and A20 ILTV, a total of 24 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were identified, but only two of these were non-synonymous. These were located in the ORF B and UL15 genes. Four indels were detected in non-coding regions. The findings from this study demonstrate the general genetic stability of ILTV, but also show that non-synonymous changes in the ORF B and UL15 genes have arisen following tissue culture passage of SA2 ILTV to produce the A20 vaccine. It is likely that these non-synonymous changes are related to the greater attenuation of A20 ILTV compared to SA2 ILTV, and to the reduced ability of A20 ILTV to spread from cell to cell, as observed in this study. The results from this study also demonstrate the divergence between the genomes of the Australian-origin ILTV vaccine strains and the Serva vaccine strain.