Marek's disease virus (MDV) is an oncogenic alphaherpesvirus that causes immunosuppression, T cell lymphomas, and neuropathic disease in infected chickens. To protect chickens from MDV infection, an avirulent live vaccine of turkey herpesvirus (HVT) has been successfully used in chickens worldwide. Many vaccine manufacturers have used chicken embryo fibroblast (CEF) cells to produce the HVT vaccine. Generally, it has been suggested that HVT is a highly cell-associated herpesvirus that spread via cell-to-cell contact, but it is unclear how HVT is transmitted from infected cells to uninfected target cells. Here, we show via immunofluorescence analysis that nanotubes containing the actin cytoskeleton and HVT antigens from infected CEF cells were observed to contact neighboring cells. When the infected cells were treated with inhibitors for actin polymerization or depolymerization, the formation and extension of the nanotubes from infected cells were greatly inhibited and the intercellular contact was abolished, leading to a drastic reduction in plaque formation and viral titers of the cell-associated virus. Our data indicate that cell-to-cell contacts via nanotubes composed of actin filaments are essential for efficient viral spreading and replication. This finding might contribute to the further improvement of efficient HVT vaccine production.
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Vol. 65 • No. 3