The white spot syndrome virus DNA polymerase (DNA pol) gene (WSSV dnapol) has already been tentatively identified based on the presence of highly conserved motifs, but it shows low overall homology with other DNA pols and is also much larger (2351 amino acid residues vs 913-1244 aa). In the present study we perform a transcriptional analysis of the WSSV dnapol gene using the total RNA isolated from WSSV-infected shrimp at different times after infection. Northern blot analysis with a WSSV dnapol-specific riboprobe found a major transcript of 7.5 kb. 5′-RACE revealed that the major transcription start point is located 27 nucleotides downstream of the TATA box, at the nucleotide residue A within a CAGT motif, one of the initiator (Inr) motifs of arthropods. In a temporal expression analysis using differential RT-PCR, WSSV dnapol transcripts were detected at low levels at 2-4 h.p.i., increased at 6 h.p.i., and remained fairly constant thereafter. This is similar to the previously reported transcription patterns for genes encoding the key enzyme of nucleotide metabolism, ribonucleotide reductase. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the DNA pols from three different WSSV isolates form an extremely tight cluster. In addition, similar to an earlier phylogenetic analysis of WSSV protein kinase, the phylogenetic tree of viral DNA pols further supports the suggestion that WSSV is a distinct virus (likely at the family level) that does not belong to any of the virus families that are currently recognized.
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