A gene for dihydrofolate reductase in a herpesvirus

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Science  04 Mar 1988:
Vol. 239, Issue 4844, pp. 1145-1147
DOI: 10.1126/science.2830673


The enzyme dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) is found ubiquitously in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. It is essential for de novo synthesis of purines and of deoxythymidine monophosphate for DNA synthesis. Among viruses, however, only the T-even and T5 bacteriophage have been found to encode their own DHFR. In this study a gene for DHFR was found in a specific subgroup of the gamma or lymphotropic class of herpesviruses. DNA sequences for DHFR were found in herpesvirus saimiri and herpesvirus ateles but not in Epstein-Barr virus, Marek's disease virus, herpes simplex virus, varicella-zoster virus, herpesvirus tamarinus, or human cytomegalovirus. The predicted sequence of herpesvirus saimiri DHFR is 186 amino acids in length, the same length as human, murine, and bovine DHFR. The human and herpesvirus saimiri DHFRs share 83 percent positional identity in amino acid sequence. The herpesvirus saimiri DHFR gene is devoid of intron sequences, suggesting that it was acquired by some process involving reverse transcription. This is to our knowledge the first example of a mammalian virus with a gene for DHFR.