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Virology. 1996 Oct 15;224(2):357-67.

Adenovirus serotype evolution is driven by illegitimate recombination in the hypervariable regions of the hexon protein.

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Viral and Rickettsial Disease Laboratory, California Department of Health Services, Berkeley 94704, USA.


The origin of AIDS-associated adenoviruses (AV 43-AV 49) was investigated by examining evolutionary relationships among 18 serologically related subgenus D serotypes and 3 intermediates and determining the mutation rate of a single serotype, AV 48, among clinical isolates from AIDS patients over a 6-year period. Nucleotide sequence of conserved and seven hypervariable regions (HVRs) of the hexon protein, the pVI core protein signal peptide, and noncoding region between the two genes was determined. Among AV 48 isolates the base misincorporation rate was 3.2 per 10,000 bases over 6 years. A 6-bp deletion occurred in one isolate between short direct repeats in HVR 7. Among subgenus D serotypes mutation rates were extremely low in the pVI peptide, the 5' hexon noncoding region, and first 187 bases of hexon protein. Small 2- and 3-bp deletions between short direct repeats in a polypurine stretch in the noncoding region occurred in 3 strains. Mutation increased with proximity to the HVRs. Within HVR 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7 variability consisted of extensive intrachromosomal illegitimate recombination, including deletions between short direct repeats, insertions and duplications in repetitive polypurine stretches, and numerous base substitutions. All serotypes and intermediates differed by at least one illegitimate recombination event, with one exception. We conclude that AV serotype evolution is driven by illegitimate recombination events (antigenic shift), concommitant with single base mutation (antigenic drift), and that the HVRs are "hot spots" for both. These events could be explained by slippage-misalignment of the AV DNA polymerase in repetitive polypurine stretches during single-strand DNA replication. This mutability in the surface regions of the major viral coat protein confers a distinct survival advantage to this family of viruses.

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