Herpesviruses are important pathogens of humans and other animals. Herpesvirus infectious clones that can reconstitute phenotypically wild-type (wt) virus are extremely valuable tools for elucidating the roles of specific genes in virus pathophysiology as well as for making vaccines. Ictalurid herpesvirus 1 (channel catfish herpesvirus [CCV]) is economically very important and is the best characterized of the herpesviruses that occur primarily in bony fish and amphibians. Here, we describe the cloning of the hitherto recalcitrant CCV genome as three overlapping subgenomic bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs). These clones allowed us to regenerate vectorless wt CCVs with a phenotype that is indistinguishable from that of the wt CCV from which the BACs were derived. To test the recombinogenic systems, we next used the overlapping BACs to construct a full-length CCV BAC by replacing the CCV ORF5 with the BAC cassette and cotransfecting CCO cells. The viral progeny that we used to transform Escherichia coli and the resulting BAC had only one of the 18-kb terminal repeated regions. Both systems suggest that one of the terminal repeat regions is lost during the replicative stage of the CCV life cycle. We also demonstrated the feasibility of introducing a targeted mutation into the CCV BAC infectious clone by constructing a CCV ORF12 deletion mutant and showed that ORF12 encodes a nonessential protein for virus replication. This is the first report of the generation of an infectious BAC clone of a member of the fish and amphibian herpesviruses and its use to generate recombinants.
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