First Isolation of a Herpesvirus (Family Alloherpesviridae) from Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon ( Acipenser fulvescens)

Animals (Basel). 2022 Nov 22;12(23):3230. doi: 10.3390/ani12233230.


The lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens; LST) is the only native sturgeon species in the Great Lakes (GL), but due to multiple factors, their current populations are estimated to be <1% of historical abundances. Little is known about infectious diseases affecting GL-LST in hatchery and wild settings. Therefore, a two-year disease surveillance study was undertaken, resulting in the detection and first in vitro isolation of a herpesvirus from grossly apparent cutaneous lesions in wild adult LST inhabiting two GL watersheds (Erie and Huron). Histological and ultrastructural examination of lesions revealed proliferative epidermitis associated with herpesvirus-like virions. A virus with identical ultrastructural characteristics was recovered from cells inoculated with lesion tissues. Partial DNA polymerase gene sequencing placed the virus within the Family Alloherpesviridae, with high similarity to a lake sturgeon herpesvirus (LSHV) from Wisconsin, USA. Genomic comparisons revealed ~84% Average Nucleotide Identity between the two isolates, leading to the proposed classification of LSHV-1 (Wisconsin) and LSHV-2 (Michigan) for the two viruses. When naïve juvenile LST were immersion-exposed to LSHV-2, severe disease and ~33% mortality occurred, with virus re-isolated from representative skin lesions, fulfilling Rivers’ postulates. Results collectively show LSHV-2 is associated with epithelial changes in wild adult LST, disease and mortality in juvenile LST, and is a potential threat to GL-LST conservation.

Keywords: disease; genomics; great lakes; herpesvirus; lake sturgeon.