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J Virol. 1994 Sep;68(9):5982-90.

Sequence diversity of small, round-structured viruses in the Norwalk virus group.

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  • 1Division of Molecular Virology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030.


We have determined the nucleotide sequences of a highly conserved region of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of the prototype Snow Mountain agent (SMA) and of four other small, round-structured viruses (antigenically Norwalk virus [NV]-like or SMA-like) following reverse transcription-PCR amplification of viral RNA obtained from human stools. The stool samples were either from volunteers administered SMA or from sporadic cases and outbreaks of gastroenteritis that occurred in Japan and the United Kingdom between 1984 and 1992. The GLPSG and YGDD RNA polymerase motifs were in the proper locations in the sequences of the five SRSVs, but each sequence was distinct from the 8FIIa prototype NV sequence and from each other. Analysis of the sequences and reactivities in a new NV antigen enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay showed that the five viruses could be divided into two groups (serogroups) with NV and SMA, respectively, being the prototypes. The sequences of the capsid region and a nonstructural region (2C) were determined from one strain from each group. One virus (SRSV-KY-89/89/J), isolated in Japan and antigenically similar to the prototype NV (isolated 21 years earlier in Ohio), showed a remarkable level of sequence similarity to NV. KY-89 and the 8FIIa NV showed 87.2% nucleotide similarity over 2,516 continuous nucleotides amounting to 96 to 98.9% amino acid similarity in three distinct domains in two open reading frames. Between the prototype SMA and NV, the polymerase region showed 63% nucleotide and 59% amino acid similarity, respectively. Two other antigenically SMA-like isolates (SRSV-925/92/UK and SRSV-OTH-25/89/J), from the United Kingdom and Japan, showed 80% nucleotide and 88 to 92% amino acid similarity in the polymerase region to the prototype SMA isolated 16 and 13 years earlier in the United States. The capsid region of the antigenically SMA-like OTH-25 virus showed 53% nucleotide and 65% amino acid similarity to the prototype NV capsid region. Domains of sequence diversity and conversation were identified within the capsid protein of these two distinct prototype serotypes of virus. These results indicate that NV-like and SMA-like agents are still circulating, and sequence comparisons will be useful to identify and classify distinct viruses in the NV group.

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