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      Genetic analysis of the central untranslated genome region and the proximal coding part of the F gene of wild-type and vaccine canine distemper morbilliviruses.

      Virus Genes

      genetics, Base Sequence, Cercopithecus aethiops, Dogs, Genome, Viral, Molecular Sequence Data, Morbillivirus, Animals, Open Reading Frames, Phylogeny, RNA, Messenger, Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid, Untranslated Regions, Vero Cells, Viral Fusion Proteins

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          Located between the open reading frames encoding the matrix (M) and the fusion (F) protein the morbillivirus genome contains an unusually large non-coding intercistronic region (M-F UTR) of up to 5.6% of the full length genome. Any function(s) of this region have largely remained obscure. Here, we analyze the M-F UTR and the proximal coding part of the downstream F gene of several recent canine distemper morbillivirus (CDV) wild-type (wt) isolates and vaccine strains. While the F gene coding part appeared to be highly conserved (about 93% homology), a considerable degree of strain-specific variation of up to 21.4% was evident when comparing the M-F UTR. Phylogenetic analysis revealed a co-circulation of several contemporary CDV genotypes within a close geographic range (central Europe). A remarkably distinct CDV wt lineage, so far detected only in mustelids, is displayed. A rather non-scattered pattern of mutations within the M-F UTR suggested superimposition of RNA sequence and/or secondary structure constraints. Extensive folding in the long (460 nt) and moderately GC-rich 5'-UTR of the F mRNA was evident, particularly around the putative F protein translation initiation codon (AUG461 of the Onderstepoort vaccine strain). The region immediately preceding the putative F initiation site also harbored the only mutation unique to both vaccine strains within the F-5'UTR (position 455: Awt vs. Cvac). The putative F protein start codon, AUG461, was found to be mutated to AUA or GUA in all wt isolates analyzed and in another vaccine strain (Rockborn). Possible consequences for F protein translation initiation in wt CDV are discussed.

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