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Rev Med Virol. 2005 May-Jun;15(3):157-67.

Role of recombination in evolution of enteroviruses.

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Chumakov Institute of Poliomyelitis and Viral Encephalitides RAMS, Moscow, Russia.


Enteroviruses, members of the Picornaviridae family, comprise a large (over 70 serotypes) group of viruses that are ubiquitous in nature, infect different species and cause a wide range of diseases. Human enteroviruses were recently classified into five species, human enterovirus A-D and poliovirus. Recombination has long been known to be an important property of poliovirus genetics. Recently, several publications demonstrated that recombination is extremely frequent also in non-polio enteroviruses, and allows independent evolution of enterovirus genome fragments even on a microevolutionary scale. Prototype enterovirus strains were shown to have complex phylogenetic relations, and almost all modern enterovirus isolates turned out to be recombinants compared with the prototype strains. Recombination takes place strictly between members of the same species, and usually spares the capsid-encoding genome region. Therefore, it can be concluded that the enterovirus species exist as a worldwide reservoir of genetic material comprising a limited quantity of capsid gene sets defining a finite number of serotypes and a range of non-structural genes that recombine frequently to produce new virus variants. This new model of enterovirus genetics helps to explain the failure of previous attempts to connect serotype and disease profile in non-polio enteroviruses, and seriously questions existing typing approaches that are based solely on the capsid-encoding genome region. It remains to be determined what role recombination plays in the emergence of new enterovirus variants and in the macroevolution of animal enteroviruses and viruses of the picorna-like supergroup.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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