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Virology. 1988 Apr;163(2):509-26.

Genome sequences of a mouse-avirulent and a mouse-virulent strain of Ross River virus.

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Biochemistry Department, Faculty of Science, Australian National University, Canberra.


The nucleotide sequence of the genomic RNA of a mouse-avirulent strain of Ross River virus, RRV NB5092 (isolated in 1969), has been determined and the corresponding sequence for the prototype mouse-virulent strain, RRV T48 (isolated in 1959), has been completed. The RRV NB5092 genome is approximately 11,674 nucleotides in length, compared with 11,853 nucleotides for RRV T48. RRV NB5092 and RRV T48 have the same genome organization. For both viruses an untranslated region of 80 nucleotides at the 5' end of the genome is followed by a 7440-nucleotide open reading frame which is interrupted after 5586 nucleotides by a single opal termination codon. By homology with other alphaviruses, the 5586-nucleotide open reading frame encodes the nonstructural proteins nsP1, nsP2, and nsP3; a fourth nonstructural protein, nsP4, is produced by read-through of the opal codon. The RRV nonstructural proteins show strong homology with the corresponding proteins of Sindbis virus and Semliki Forest virus in terms of size, net charge, and hydropathy characteristics. However, homology is not uniform between or within the proteins; nsP1, nsP2, and nsP4 contain extended domains which are highly conserved between alphaviruses, while the C-terminal region of nsP3 shows little conservation in sequence or length between alphaviruses. An untranslated "junction" region of 44 nucleotides (for RRV NB5092) or 47 nucleotides (for RRV T48) separates the nonstructural and structural protein coding regions. The structural proteins (capsid-E3-E2-6K-E1) are translated from an open reading frame of 3762 nucleotides which is followed by a 3'-untranslated region of approximately 348 nucleotides (for RRV NB5092) or 524 nucleotides (for RRV T48). Excluding deletions and insertions, the genomes of RRV NB5092 and RRV T48 differ at 284 nucleotides, representing a sequence divergence of 2.38%. Sequence deletions or insertions were found only in the noncoding regions and include a 173-nucleotide deletion in the 3'-untranslated region of RRV NB5092, compared with RRV T48. In the coding regions, most of the nucleotide differences are silent; there are 36 amino acid differences in the nonstructural proteins and 12 in the structural proteins. The distribution of amino acid differences between the two RRV strains correlates with the location of domains which are poorly conserved in sequence between alphaviruses. The possible role of amino acid differences in envelope glycoproteins E1 and E2 in determining the different antigenic and biological properties of RRV NB5092 and RRV T48 is discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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