Gammaherpesviruses encode numerous immunomodulatory molecules that contribute to their ability to evade the host immune response and establish persistent, lifelong infections. As the human gammaherpesviruses are strictly species specific, small animal models of gammaherpesvirus infection, such as murine gammaherpesvirus 68 (γHV68) infection, are important for studying the roles of gammaherpesvirus immune evasion genes in in vivo infection and pathogenesis. We report here the genome sequence and characterization of a novel rodent gammaherpesvirus, designated rodent herpesvirus Peru (RHVP), that shares conserved genes and genome organization with γHV68 and the primate gammaherpesviruses but is phylogenetically distinct from γHV68. RHVP establishes acute and latent infection in laboratory mice. Additionally, RHVP contains multiple open reading frames (ORFs) not present in γHV68 that have sequence similarity to primate gammaherpesvirus immunomodulatory genes or cellular genes. These include ORFs with similarity to major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC-I), C-type lectins, and the mouse mammary tumor virus and herpesvirus saimiri superantigens. As these ORFs may function as immunomodulatory or virulence factors, RHVP presents new opportunities for the study of mechanisms of immune evasion by gammaherpesviruses.
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