Equine herpesvirus 4 (EHV-4) is a major cause of respiratory tract disease in horses worldwide. The generation of recombinant viruses, which would lead to understanding of viral gene functions, has been hindered by the absence of suitable cell lines and small-animal models of the infection. In the present study, the genome of EHV-4 strain TH20p was cloned as a stable and infectious BAC without any deletions of the viral genes. Mini F plasmid sequences flanked by loxP sites were inserted into the intergenic region between genes 58 and 59. Coinfection of the recombinant virus with a recombinant adenovirus expressing Cre recombinase resulted in the excision of the BAC sequences. Importantly, the resulting recombinant EHV-4 replicated comparably to the wild-type virus in fetal horse kidney cells. The recombinant EHV-4 will facilitate EHV-4 research and provide the opportunity to exploit the power of BAC technology for production of recombinant viral vaccines.
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