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Genetically highly divergent RNA virus with astrovirus-like (5′-end) and hepevirus-like (3′-end) genome organization in carnivorous birds, European roller (Coracias garrulus)

Pankovics, Péter, Boros, Ákos, Kiss, Tamás, Engelmann, Péter, Reuter, Gábor
Infection, genetics, and evolution 2019 v.71 pp. 215-223
enteropathogens, Astroviridae, genome, phylogeny, Coracias garrulus, open reading frames, hepatitis E, viral nonstructural proteins, feces, viruses, carnivores, coat proteins, sequence analysis, humans, capsid, amino acid sequences, birds, Orthohepevirus, proteinases, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, Rana, RNA, Hungary
Astroviruses (family Astroviridae) and hepeviruses (family Hepeviridae) are small, non-enveloped viruses with genetically diverse +ssRNA genome thought to be enteric pathogens infecting vertebrates including humans. Recently, many novel astro- and hepatitis E virus-like +ssRNA viruses have been described from lower vertebrate species. The non-structural proteins of astro- and hepeviruses are highly diverse, but the structural/capsid proteins represent a common phylogenetic position shed the light of their common origin by inter-viral recombination. In this study, a novel astrovirus/hepevirus-like virus with +ssRNA genome (Er/SZAL5/HUN/2011, MK450332) was serendipitously identified and characterized from 3 (8.5%) out of 35 European roller (Coracias garrulus) faecal samples by RT-PCR in Hungary. The complete genome of Er/SZAL5/HUN/2011 (MK450332) is 8402 nt-long and potentially composed three non-overlapping open reading frames (ORFs): ORF1a (4449 nt/1482aa), ORF1b (1206 nt/401aa) and ORF2 (1491 nt/496aa). The ORF1ab has an astrovirus-like genome organization containing the non-structural conserved elements (TM, CC, NLS, VPg) and enzyme residues (trypsine-like protease, RNA-dependent RNA-polymerase) with low amino acid sequence identity, 15% (ORF1a) and 44% (ORF1b), to astroviruses. Supposedly the ORF2 is a capsid protein but neither the astrovirus-like subgenomic RNA promoter (sgRNA) nor the astrovirus-like capsid characteristics have been identifiable. However, the predicted capsid protein (ORF2) showed 26% identity to the corresponding protein of hepevirus-like novel Rana hepevirus (MH330682). This novel +ssRNA virus strain Er/SZAL5/HUN/2011 with astrovirus-like genome organization in the non-structural genome regions (ORF1a and ORF1b) and Rana hepevirus-related capsid (ORF2) protein represent a potentially recombinant virus species and supports the common origin hypothesis, although, the taxonomic position of the studied virus is still under discussion.