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Ranaviruses (Iridoviridae), including Frog Virus 3 (FV3), are large dsDNA viruses that cause devastating infections globally in amphibians, fish, and reptiles, and contribute to catastrophic amphibian declines. FV3’s large genome (~105 kb) contains at least 98 putative open reading frames (ORFs) as annotated in its reference genome. Previous studies have classified these coding genes into temporal classes as immediate early, delayed early, and late viral transcripts based on their sequential expression during FV3 infection. To establish a high-throughput characterization of ranaviral gene expression at the genome scale, we performed a whole transcriptomic analysis (RNA-Seq) using total RNA samples containing both viral and cellular transcripts from FV3-infected Xenopus laevis adult tissues using two FV3 strains, a wild type (FV3-WT) and an ORF64R-deleted recombinant (FV3-∆64R). In samples from the infected intestine, liver, spleen, lung, and especially kidney, an FV3-targeted transcriptomic analysis mapped reads spanning the full-genome coverage at ~10× depth on both positive and negative strands. By contrast, reads were only mapped to partial genomic regions in samples from the infected thymus, skin, and muscle. Extensive analyses validated the expression of almost all of the 98 annotated ORFs and profiled their differential expression in a tissue-, virus-, and temporal class-dependent manner. Further studies identified several putative ORFs that encode hypothetical proteins containing viral mimicking conserved domains found in host interferon (IFN) regulatory factors (IRFs) and IFN receptors. This study provides the first comprehensive genome-wide viral transcriptome profiling during infection and across multiple amphibian host tissues that will serve as an instrumental reference. Our findings imply that Ranaviruses like FV3 have acquired previously unknown molecular mimics, interfering with host IFN signaling during evolution.

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