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Infect Genet Evol. 2013 Mar;14:396-400. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2013.01.001. Epub 2013 Jan 16.

A detailed comparative analysis on the overall codon usage patterns in West Nile virus.

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  • 1Laboratorio de Virología Molecular, Centro de Investigaciones Nucleares, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Iguá 4225, 11400 Montevideo, Uruguay.


West Nile virus (WNV) is a member of the family Flaviviridae and its genome consists of an 11-kb single-stranded, positive-sense RNA. WNV is maintained in an enzootic cycle between mosquitoes and birds, but can also infect and cause disease in horses and humans, which serve as incidental dead-end hosts. Understanding the extent and causes of biases in codon usage is essential to the comprehension of viral evolution. In this study, we performed a comprehensive analysis of 449 WNV strains, for which complete genome sequences are available. Effective number of codons (ENC) indicates that the overall codon usage among WNV strains is only slightly biased. Codon adaptation index (CAI) values found for WNV genes are different from the CAI values found for human genes. The relative synonymous codon usage among WNV strains isolated from birds, equines, humans and mosquitoes are roughly similar and are influenced by the relative dinucleotide frequencies. Taking together, the results of this work suggest that WNV genomic biases are the result of the evolution of genome composition, the need to escape the antiviral cell responses and a dynamic process of mutation and selection to re-adapt its codon usage to different environments.

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