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J Virol. 1982 Jan;41(1):51-65.

Nucleotide sequence of a cloned woodchuck hepatitis virus genome: comparison with the hepatitis B virus sequence.


The complete nucleotide sequence of a woodchuck hepatitis virus genome cloned in Escherichia coli was determined by the method of Maxam and Gilbert. This sequence was found to be 3,308 nucleotides long. Potential ATG initiator triplets and nonsense codons were identified and used to locate regions with a substantial coding capacity. A striking similarity was observed between the organization of human hepatitis B virus and woodchuck hepatitis virus. Nucleotide sequences of these open regions in the woodchuck virus were compared with corresponding regions present in hepatitis B virus. This allowed the location of four viral genes on the L strand and indicated the absence of protein coded by the S strand. Evolution rates of the various parts of the genome as well as of the four different proteins coded by hepatitis B virus and woodchuck hepatitis virus were compared. These results indicated that: (i) the core protein has evolved slightly less rapidly than the other proteins; and (ii) when a region of DNA codes for two different proteins, there is less freedom for the DNA to evolve and, moreover, one of the proteins can evolve more rapidly than the other. A hairpin structure, very well conserved in the two genomes, was located in the only region devoid of coding function, suggesting the location of the origin of replication of the viral DNA.

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