Tel. +49 30 838 51833 Fax. +49 30 838 451847
Epidemiological studies have shown that a single-nucleotide polymorphism in the equid herpesvirus type 1 DNA polymerase gene is associated with outbreaks of highly lethal neurological disease in horses. Reverse genetics experiments further demonstrated that a G(2254) A(2254) nucleotide mutation introduced in neurovirulent strain Ab4, which resulted in an asparagine for aspartic acid substitution (D(752) N(752)), rendered the virus nonneurovirulent in the equine. Here, we report that the nonneurovirulent strain equid herpesvirus type 1 strain NY03 caused lethal neurological disease in horses after mutation of A(2254) G(2254) (N(752) D(752)), thereby providing final proof that the D(752) allele in the viral DNA polymerase is necessary and sufficient for expression of the lethal neurovirulent phenotype in the natural host. Although virus shedding was comparable between the N(752) and D(752) variants, infection with the latter was accompanied by efficient establishment of prolonged cell-associated viremia in peripheral blood mononuclear cells and neurological disease in 2 of 6 animals.