Green turtle fibropapillomatosis is a neoplastic disease of increasingly significant threat to the survivability of this species. Degenerate PCR primers that target highly conserved regions of genes encoding herpesvirus DNA polymerases were used to amplify a DNA sequence from fibropapillomas and fibromas from Hawaiian and Florida green turtles. All of the tumors tested (n= 23) were found to harbor viral DNA, whereas no viral DNA was detected in skin biopsies from tumor-negative turtles. The tissue distribution of the green turtle herpesvirus appears to be generally limited to tumors where viral DNA was found to accumulate at approximately two to five copies per cell and is occasionally detected, only by PCR, in some tissues normally associated with tumor development. In addition, herpesviral DNA was detected in fibropapillomas from two loggerhead and four olive ridley turtles. Nucleotide sequencing of a 483-bp fragment of the turtle herpesvirus DNA polymerase gene determined that the Florida green turtle and loggerhead turtle sequences are identical and differ from the Hawaiian green turtle sequence by five nucleotide changes, which results in two amino acid substitutions. The olive ridley sequence differs from the Florida and Hawaiian green turtle sequences by 15 and 16 nucleotide changes, respectively, resulting in four amino acid substitutions, three of which are unique to the olive ridley sequence. Our data suggest that these closely related turtle herpesviruses are intimately involved in the genesis of fibropapillomatosis.
Additional Publication Details
Three closely related herpesviruses are associated with fibropapillomatosis in marine turtles