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J Virol. 2004 Aug;78(16):8771-9.

Matrix gene of influenza a viruses isolated from wild aquatic birds: ecology and emergence of influenza a viruses.

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  • 1Division of Virology, Department of Infectious Diseases, Mail Stop 330, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 332 N. Lauderdale St., Memphis, TN 38105, USA.


Wild aquatic birds are the primary reservoir of influenza A viruses, but little is known about the viruses' gene pool in wild birds. Therefore, we investigated the ecology and emergence of influenza viruses by conducting phylogenetic analysis of 70 matrix (M) genes of influenza viruses isolated from shorebirds and gulls in the Delaware Bay region and from ducks in Alberta, Canada, during >18 years of surveillance. In our analysis, we included 61 published M genes of isolates from various hosts. We showed that M genes of Canadian duck viruses and those of shorebird and gull viruses in the Delaware Bay shared ancestors with the M genes of North American poultry viruses. We found that North American and Eurasian avian-like lineages are divided into sublineages, indicating that multiple branches of virus evolution may be maintained in wild aquatic birds. The presence of non-H13 gull viruses in the gull-like lineage and of H13 gull viruses in other avian lineages suggested that gulls' M genes do not preferentially associate with the H13 subtype or segregate into a distinct lineage. Some North American avian influenza viruses contained M genes closely related to those of Eurasian avian viruses. Therefore, there may be interregional mixing of the two clades. Reassortment of shorebird M and HA genes was evident, but there was no correlation among the HA or NA subtype, M gene sequence, and isolation time. Overall, these results support the hypothesis that influenza viruses in wild waterfowl contain distinguishable lineages of M genes.

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