Full-length isoform sequencing reveals novel transcripts and substantial transcriptional overlaps in a herpesvirus.
Whole transcriptome studies have become essential for understanding the complexity of genetic regulation. However, the conventionally applied short-read sequencing platforms cannot be used to reliably distinguish between many transcript isoforms. The Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) RS II platform is capable of reading long nucleic acid stretches in a single sequencing run. The pseudorabies virus (PRV) is an excellent system to study herpesvirus gene expression and potential interactions between the transcriptional units. In this work, non-amplified and amplified isoform sequencing protocols were used to characterize the poly(A+) fraction of the lytic transcriptome of PRV, with the aim of a complete transcriptional annotation of the viral genes. The analyses revealed a previously unrecognized complexity of the PRV transcriptome including the discovery of novel protein-coding and non-coding genes, novel mono- and polycistronic transcription units, as well as extensive transcriptional overlaps between neighboring and distal genes. This study identified non-coding transcripts overlapping all three replication origins of the PRV, which might play a role in the control of DNA synthesis. We additionally established the relative expression levels of gene products. Our investigations revealed that the whole PRV genome is utilized for transcription, including both DNA strands in all coding and intergenic regions. The genome-wide occurrence of transcript overlaps suggests a crosstalk between genes through a network formed by interacting transcriptional machineries with a potential function in the control of gene expression.