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Virology. 1993 Feb;192(2):710-6.

Evidence of natural recombination within the S1 gene of infectious bronchitis virus.

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Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, Texas A&M University, College Station 77843.


During an outbreak of severe respiratory disease, a field strain of infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), PP14, was isolated from a bird in a Texas flock that had been previously vaccinated with an attenuated Mass serotype virus. After cloning and sequencing the S1 gene from several IBV strains, it was found that the 5' end of the cDNA was 96% identical to the published sequences of Mass41 and 77% identical with Ark99. The following 402 bases which included the hypervariable regions (HVR) of the S1 gene were 94% homologous with Ark99 and only 69% with Mass41. In addition, the HVR in the 3' noncoding region of the genome, which is totally absent in Mass41, was 99% homologous with the Ark99 strain. This abrupt shift in identity of PP14 in the S1 strongly indicated that a recombination event had occurred about 98 bases from the beginning of the S1 gene between an Ark-like and a Mass-like virus. Downstream, 33 bases from the PP14 recombination junction, a second putative "cross-over" site was identified in the S1 of the SE17 strain where the 5'131 bases of the S1 gene of the Ark99 and SE17 were found to be 95% identical and the following 368 base sequence was only 78% homologous. In addition, a second shift in homology in the S1 of SE17 was identified between nucleotide 1112 and 1460 which shared 95% identity with Mass41. The putative recombination junctions which were downstream of the signal sequence and upstream of the S1 HVR may represent a "hot spot," but not an exclusive region, for exchanging genetic material between IBV strains. Genetic shifts are apparently not only common mechanisms for variation in nature, but vaccine strains may actually play a critical role in these events in the evolution of virulent strains of IBV.

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