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J Virol. 1997 Jul;71(7):4929-37.

Localized sequence heterogeneity in the long terminal repeats of in vivo isolates of equine infectious anemia virus.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of South Dakota, Vermillion 57069, USA.


The role of in vivo long terminal repeat (LTR) sequence variation of the lentivirus equine infectious anemia virus (EIAV) has not been explored. In this study, we investigated the heterogeneity found in the LTR sequences from seven EIAV-seropositive horses: three horses with clinical disease and four horses without any detectable signs of disease. LTR sequences were targeted in this study because the LTR U3 enhancer region of tissue culture-derived isolates has been identified as one of the few hypervariable regions of the EIAV genome. Furthermore, LTR variation may regulate EIAV expression in vivo. Both intra- and interanimal sequence variations were investigated. The intra-animal variation was low in seropositive, healthy horses (on average 0.44%). Intra-animal variation was consistently higher in clinically ill horses (0.99%), suggesting that greater numbers of quasispecies of EIAV are present when active virus replication is ongoing. Interanimal comparisons of consensus sequences generated from each horse demonstrated that the enhancer region is a hotspot of sequence variation in vivo. Thirty-seven of the 83 nucleotides that compose the U3 enhancer region were variable between the different in vivo-derived LTRs. The remainder of the LTR that was analyzed was more conserved, 8 of 195 nucleotide positions being variable. Results of electrophoretic mobility shift assays demonstrated that some nucleotide substitutions that occurred in the enhancer region eliminated or altered transcription factor binding motifs that are known to be important for EIAV LTR expression. These data suggested that the selective pressures exerted on the EIAV LTR enhancer sequences are different from those exerted on the remainder of the LTR. Our findings are consistent with the possibility that enhancer sequence hypervariability can alter expression of the virus in tissue macrophages and therefore contribute to clinical disease in infected horses.

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