UL146 variability among clinical isolates of Human Cytomegalovirus from Japan
Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a herpesvirus associated with serious diseases in immunocompromised subjects. The region between ORF UL133 and UL151 from HCMV, named ULb' is frequently deleted in attenuated AD169 and in highly passaged laboratory strains. However, this region is conserved in low-passaged and more virulent HCMV, like the Toledo strain. The UL146 gene, which is located in the ULb' region, encodes a CXC-chemokine analogue. The diversity of UL146 gene was evaluated among fifty-six clinical isolates of HCMV from Japan. Results show that UL146 gene was successfully amplified by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in only 17/56 strains (30%), while the success rate for UL145/UL147 gene was 18/56 strains (32%). After DNA sequencing, the 35 amplified strains were classified into 8 groups. When compared, variability of UL146 ranged from 25.1% to 52.9% at the DNA level and from 34.5% to 67% at the amino acid level. Seven groups had the interleukin-8 (IL-8) motif ERL (Glu-Leu-Arg) CXC and one group had only the CXC motif, suggesting the absence of the IL-8 function of UL146. In conclusion, we found that UL146 gene of HCMV is hyper-variable in clinical strains from Japan suggesting the possibility of a different function in each sequence group.