Molecular characteristics of avian leukosis viruses isolated from indigenous chicken breeds in China

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To assess the status of avian leukosis virus (ALV) infection in indigenous chicken breeds in China, 121 plasma samples collected from various indigenous chicken breeds were tested for the presence of ALV from 2015 to 2016. A total of 14 ALV strains were isolated and identified, including two ALV-A strains, one ALV-B strain, eight ALV-J strains, and three ALV-K strains. To study the genome structure, biological characteristics, and the evolutionary relationships of the ALV-K strains with other known subgroup strains from infected chickens, we determined the complete genome sequence of the three ALV-K strains and performed comparative analysis using the whole genome sequence or selected sequence elements. The replication rates of the three ALV-K strains were markedly lower than the rates of other ALVs, and they shared a common mutation in the pol gene, which had not been previously observed. In addition, nine putative recombinant events were detected in the genomes of the three newly isolated ALV-K strains, with high statistical support. This was the first report of an ALV-K reorganization event, which has contributed to its genetic evolution. In summary, we established a robust classification system for ALV, especially for ALV-K, and revealed additional genomic diversity for the ALV strains in indigenous chicken breeds. Therefore additional works are warranted to explore ALV genomics and epidemiology.

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