From previously constructed genomic libraries of a Taiwan WSSV isolate, a putative WSSV tk-tmk gene was identified. Uniquely, the open reading frame (ORF) of this gene was predicted to encode a novel chimeric protein of 388 amino acids with significant homology to two proteins: thymidine kinase (TK) and thymidylate kinase (TMK). Northern blot analysis with a WSSV tk-tmk-specific riboprobe detected a major transcript of 1.6 kb. When healthy adult Penaeus monodon shrimp were inoculated with WSSV, the tk-tmk gene transcript was first detected by RT-PCR analysis at 4 h postinfection and transcription levels continued to increase over the first 18 h. The gene's major in vitro transcription and translation product, equivalent to the predicted size (43 kDa), is a single chimeric protein that includes both the TK and TMK functional motifs. Evidence for phylogenetic analysis and sequence alignment suggested that the gene may have resulted from the fusion of a cellular-type TK gene and a cellular-type TMK gene. Its unique arrangement may also provide a valuable gene marker for WSSV.
M. Tsai, H. Yu, H. Tzeng