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J Virol. 2012 Mar;86(5):2729-38. doi: 10.1128/JVI.05591-11. Epub 2011 Dec 21.

Genome-scale phylogeny of the alphavirus genus suggests a marine origin.

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Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases and Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA.


The genus Alphavirus comprises a diverse group of viruses, including some that cause severe disease. Using full-length sequences of all known alphaviruses, we produced a robust and comprehensive phylogeny of the Alphavirus genus, presenting a more complete evolutionary history of these viruses compared to previous studies based on partial sequences. Our phylogeny suggests the origin of the alphaviruses occurred in the southern oceans and spread equally through the Old and New World. Since lice appear to be involved in aquatic alphavirus transmission, it is possible that we are missing a louse-borne branch of the alphaviruses. Complete genome sequencing of all members of the genus also revealed conserved residues forming the structural basis of the E1 and E2 protein dimers.

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