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J Virol. 1991 Jul;65(7):3704-14.

Evolution of influenza A virus nucleoprotein genes: implications for the origins of H1N1 human and classical swine viruses.

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Department of Virology and Molecular Biology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee 38101-0318.


A phylogenetic analysis of 52 published and 37 new nucleoprotein (NP) gene sequences addressed the evolution and origin of human and swine influenza A viruses. H1N1 human and classical swine viruses (i.e., those related to Swine/Iowa/15/30) share a single common ancestor, which was estimated to have occurred in 1912 to 1913. From this common ancestor, human and classical swine virus NP genes have evolved at similar rates that are higher than in avian virus NP genes (3.31 to 3.41 versus 1.90 nucleotide changes per year). At the protein level, human virus NPs have evolved twice as fast as classical swine virus NPs (0.66 versus 0.34 amino acid change per year). Despite evidence of frequent interspecies transmission of human and classical swine viruses, our analysis indicates that these viruses have evolved independently since well before the first isolates in the early 1930s. Although our analysis cannot reveal the original host, the ancestor virus was avianlike, showing only five amino acid differences from the root of the avian virus NP lineage. The common pattern of relationship and origin for the NP and other genes of H1N1 human and classical swine viruses suggests that the common ancestor was an avian virus and not a reassortant derived from previous human or swine influenza A viruses. The new avianlike H1N1 swine viruses in Europe may provide a model for the evolution of newly introduced avian viruses into the swine host reservoir. The NPs of these viruses are evolving more rapidly than those of human or classical swine viruses (4.50 nucleotide changes and 0.74 amino acid change per year), and when these rates are applied to pre-1930s human and classical swine virus NPs, the predicted date of a common ancestor is 1918 rather than 1912 to 1913. Thus, our NP phylogeny is consistent with historical records and the proposal that a short time before 1918, a new H1N1 avianlike virus entered human or swine hosts (O. T. Gorman, R. O. Donis, Y. Kawaoka, and R. G. Webster, J. Virol. 64:4893-4902, 1990). This virus provided the ancestors of all known human influenza A virus genes, except for HA, NA, and PB1, which have since been reassorted from avian viruses. We propose that during 1918 a virulent strain of this new avianlike virus caused a severe human influenza pandemic and that the pandemic virus was introduced into North American swine populations, constituting the origin of classical swine virus.

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