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Virology. 2003 Dec 20;317(2):191-6.

New insights into the evolutionary relationships between arenaviruses provided by comparative analysis of small and large segment sequences.

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Unité des Virus Emergents (EA3292, IFR48, IRD UR034), Faculté de Médecine, 27 boulevard Jean Moulin, 13005 Marseille, France.


Arenaviruses are rodent-borne negative-stranded bisegmented RNA viruses. Five arenaviruses are etiologic agents of hemorrhagic fever in humans and are potential agents of bioterrorism. They are classified as Biosafety level 4 agents and listed in the category A of the Pathogen Agents edited by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. To date, evolution and phylogeny of arenaviruses have been based on the analysis of sequences derived from structural genes (small RNA segment) exclusively, due to the lack of sequences available for the large RNA segment. In this study, partial sequences of the polymerase gene were determined for 18 species of arenaviruses and used to investigate phylogenetic relationships. Comparative analysis of topologies obtained from polymerase and structural gene analyses permitted us to determine the evolutionary origin of the major parent of the North American recombinant arenaviruses, and to investigate the role of genetic exchange (reassortment and recombination) in the evolutionary mechanisms driving the evolution of the genus Arenavirus.

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