Otarine herpesvirus-1: A novel gammaherpesvirus associated with urogenital carcinoma in California sea lions (Zalophus californianus)

Donald P. King, Michelle C. Hure, Tracey Goldstein, Brian M. Aldridge, Frances M.D. Gulland, Jeremiah T. Saliki, Elizabeth L. Buckles, Linda J. Lowenstine, Jeffrey L. Stott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The incidence of neoplasia in California sea lions (CSLs) is considered to be unusually high. Electron microscopic examination of some of these urogenital tumours revealed the presence of virions with typical herpes-like structure. While current attempts to cultivate this virus have not been successful, molecular studies employing DNA extracted from tumour tissues allowed both the classification of the agent and its identification in tumours and archived tissue samples. Two genome fragments generated using degenerate primers in PCR demonstrated highest identities with other mammalian gammaherpesviruses. Phylogenetic analysis showed that this novel virus, tentatively designated Otarine herpesvirus-1 (OtHV-1), grouped with members of the gammaherpesvirus subfamily and was distinct from PHV-2, a previously described pinniped gammaherpesvirus. An OtHV-1 specific PCR was established and used to investigate the presence of this virus in CSL tissues. PCR of DNA isolated from animals with these tumours, demonstrated that this virus was present in 100% (16/16) of tumours. Furthermore, DNA extracted from archived brain and muscle tissues was also positive in 29% (4/14) and 50% (7/14) of cases examined. This preliminary study provides evidence to support the hypothesis that the presence of this novel gammaherpesvirus is a factor in the development of urogenital carcinoma in CSLs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-137
Number of pages7
JournalVeterinary Microbiology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Apr 22 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Herpesvirus
  • PCR
  • Sea lion
  • Tumour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • General Veterinary


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