Sequence analysis of the 5′ third of glycoprotein C gene of South American bovine herpesviruses 1 and 5

Bovine herpesviruses 1 (BoHV-1) and 5 (BoHV-5) share high genetic and antigenic similarities, but exhibit marked differences in tissue tropism and neurovirulence. The amino-terminal region of glycoprotein C (gC), which is markedly different in each of the viruses, is involved in virus binding to cellular receptors and in interactions with the immune system. This study investigated the genetic and antigenic differences of the 5′ region of the gC (5′ gC) gene (amino-terminal) of South American BoHV-1 (n=19) and BoHV-5 (n=25) isolates. Sequence alignments of 374 nucleotides (104 amino acids) revealed mean similarity levels of 97.3 and 94.2% among BoHV-1 gC (gC1), respectively, 96.8 and 95.6% among BoHV-5 gC (gC5), and 62 and 53.3% between gC1 and gC5. Differences included the absence of 40 amino acid residues (27 encompassing predicted linear epitopes) scattered throughout 5′ gC1 compared to 5′ gC5. Virus neutralizing assays testing BoHV-1 and BoHV-5 antisera against each isolate revealed a high degree of cross-neutralization between the viruses, yet some isolates were neutralized at very low titers by heterologous sera, and a few BoHV-5 isolates reacted weakly with either sera. The virus neutralization differences observed within the same viral species, and more pronounced between BoHV-1 and BoHV-5, likely reflect sequence differences in neutralizing epitopes. These results demonstrate that the 5′ gC region is well conserved within each viral species but is divergent between BoHV-1 and BoHV-5, likely contributing to their biological and antigenic differences.