Several viruses have been shown to integrate their genetic information into host chromosomes genome, which facilitates maintenance and replication of the virus genome during cell proliferation. Two herpesviruses, human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) and the oncogenic Marek’s disease virus (MDV), have been recently shown to integrate their genome into telomeres of host chromosomes. MDV, HHV-6, and many other herpesviruses contain repetitive sequences (TTAGGG)n, which are identical to the telomere sequences of the host cell. We were recently able to demonstrate that the viral telomere sequences are vital for the integration of the MDV genome into the host telomere and that this integration mechanic is very important for the tumorigenesis.
Our work group is investigating the mechanism that facilitates the integration of MDV and HHV-6 into the host genome. Furthermore, we are analyzing factors that are involved in MDV-induced tumorigenesis such as the viral chemokine vIL-8, the viral telomerase RNA (vTR) and the major oncogene meq.