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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Nov 15, 1993; 90(22): 10539–10543.

RNA sequence of astrovirus: distinctive genomic organization and a putative retrovirus-like ribosomal frameshifting signal that directs the viral replicase synthesis.


The genomic RNA of human astrovirus was sequenced and found to contain 6797 nt organized into three open reading frames (1a, 1b, and 2). A potential ribosomal frameshift site identified in the overlap region of open reading frames 1a and 1b consists of a "shifty" heptanucleotide and an RNA stem-loop structure that closely resemble those at the gag-pro junction of some retroviruses. This translation frame-shift may result in the suppression of in-frame amber termination at the end of open reading frame 1a and the synthesis of a nonstructural, fusion polyprotein that contains the putative protease and RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. Comparative sequence analysis indicated that the protease and polymerase of astrovirus are only distantly related to the respective enzymes of other positive-strand RNA viruses. The astrovirus polyprotein lacks the RNA helicase domain typical of other positive-strand RNA viruses of similar genome size. The genomic organization and expression strategy of astrovirus, with the protease and the polymerase brought together by predicted frameshift, most closely resembled those of plant leuteoviruses. Specific features of the sequence and genomic organization support the classification of astroviruses as an additional family of positive-strand RNA viruses, designated Astroviridae.

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