Evidence of the widespread occurrence of reticuloendotheliosis virus (REV) sequence insertions in fowl poxvirus (FPV) genome of field isolates and vaccine strains has increased in recent years. However, only those strains carrying a near intact REV provirus are more likely to cause problems in the field. Detection of the intact provirus or REV protein expression from FPV stocks has proven to be technically difficult. The objective of the present study was to evaluate current and newly developed REV and FPV polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays to detect the presence of REV provirus in FPV samples. The second objective was to characterize REV insertions among recent “variant” FPV field isolates and vaccine strains. With REV, FPV, and heterologous REV-FPV primers, five FPV field isolates and four commercial vaccines were analyzed by PCR and nucleotide sequence analysis. Intact and truncated REV 5′ long terminal repeat (LTR) sequences were detected in all FPV field isolates and vaccine strains, indicating heterogeneous REV genome populations. However only truncated 3′ LTR and envelope sequences were detected among field isolates and in one vaccine strain. Amplifications of the REV envelope and 3′ LTR provided strong evidence to indicate that these isolates carry a near intact REV genome. Three of the four FPV vaccine strains analyzed carried a solo complete or truncated 5′ LTR sequence, indicating that intact REV provirus was not present. Comparison of PCR assays indicated that assays amplifying REV envelope and REV 3′ LTR sequences provided a more accurate assessment of REV provirus than PCR assays that amplify the REV 5′ LTR region. Therefore, to differentiate FPV strains that carry intact REV provirus from those that carry solo 5′ LTR sequences, positive PCR results with primers that amplify the 5′ LTR should be confirmed with more specific PCR assays, such as the envelope, or the REV 3′ LTR PCR.
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Vol. 47 • No. 2