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J Virol. 1991 Jun;65(6):2910-20.

Equine arteritis virus is not a togavirus but belongs to the coronaviruslike superfamily.

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Department of Virology, Faculty of Medicine, Leiden University, The Netherlands.


The nucleotide sequence of the genome of equine arteritis virus (EAV) was determined from a set of overlapping cDNA clones and was found to contain eight open reading frames (ORFs). ORFs 2 through 7 are expressed from six 3'-coterminal subgenomic mRNAs, which are transcribed from the 3'-terminal quarter of the viral genome. A number of these ORFs are predicted to encode structural EAV proteins. The organization and expression of the 3' part of the EAV genome are remarkably similar to those of coronaviruses and toroviruses. The 5'-terminal three-quarters of the genome contain the putative EAV polymerase gene, which also shares a number of features with the corresponding gene of corona- and toroviruses. The gene contains two large ORFs, ORF1a and ORF1b, with an overlap region of 19 nucleotides. The presence of a "shifty" heptanucleotide sequence in this region and a downstream RNA pseudoknot structure indicate that ORF1b is probably expressed by ribosomal frameshifting. The frameshift-directing potential of the ORF1a/ORF1b overlap region was demonstrated by using a reporter gene. Moreover, the predicted ORF1b product was found to contain four domains which have been identified in the same relative positions in coronavirus and torovirus ORF1b products. The sequences of the EAV and coronavirus ORF1a proteins were found to be much more diverged. The EAV ORF1a product contains a putative trypsinlike serine protease motif. Our data indicate that EAV, presently considered a togavirus, is evolutionarily related to viruses from the coronaviruslike superfamily.

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