Evaluating phenotype and genotype of drug-resistant strains in herpesviruses

Mol Biotechnol. 2001 Jun;18(2):155-67. doi: 10.1385/mb:18:2:155.


The isolation of drug-resistant strains of herpesviruses, including Herpes Simplex Virus type I (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2), Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV), and cytomegalovirus (CMV), has been reported with increasing frequency in immunocompromised patients and is a matter of major concern. Determination of antiviral drug susceptibilities is a prerequisite for the management of drug-resistant herpesvirus infections. Phenotyping studies should be correlated with genotyping, i.e., characterization of the mutations in the target genes. The isolation of drug-resistant virus in the laboratory and the determination of their phenotype and genotype may be useful to clarify the mechanisms of selective drug action. We describe here the procedures used for in vitro selection of drug-resistant herpesvirus mutants and the determination of their patterns of drug-susceptibility. The subcloning of the HSV-1 DNA polymerase gene is described as an example of the methodology followed to determine the mutation(s) in the drug-target viral gene that are associated with the resistant phenotype. To avoid the introduction of mutations by PCR amplification, all subcloning experiments were executed directly on viral DNA. Viral DNA was prepared from each plaque-purified viral strain and a 3.4 kb BamHI fragment containing 87% of the HSV-1 DNA polymerase gene coding region was purified and further digested with SacI; the two resulting fragments were subcloned into pU18 and propagated in Escherichia coli. Plasmid DNA was isolated and the inserts were sequenced using dideoxynucleotide chain termination method with T7 DNA polymerase and Taq DNA polymerase in an automated laser fluorescent DNA sequencer. pUC/M13 reverse, universal primers and oligonucleodite primers based on the wild-type virus sequence were used. The nucleotide sequences of the DNA polymerase genes of the different mutants was then compared with the nucleotide sequence of the wild-type HSV-1 KOS strain.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Cytomegalovirus / genetics*
  • Cytomegalovirus / pathogenicity
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Viral / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli
  • Exodeoxyribonucleases / genetics
  • Genotype
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / genetics*
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / pathogenicity
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests / methods*
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Simplexvirus / enzymology
  • Simplexvirus / genetics*
  • Simplexvirus / pathogenicity
  • Vero Cells
  • Viral Plaque Assay
  • Viral Proteins*


  • Viral Proteins
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • Exodeoxyribonucleases
  • DNA polymerase, Simplexvirus