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Published June 1991 | public
Journal Article

Structure of the Ockelbo Virus Genome and Its Relationship to Other Sindbis Viruses


Ockelbo virus was first isolated in 1982 in Sweden. It is the causal agent of disease in humans characterized by arthritis, rash, and fever and is antigenically very closely related to Sindbis virus. We have determined the nucleotide and translated amino acid sequences of the prototype Ockelbo virus isolate (82-5) to determine the relatedness of Ockelbo virus to Sindbis virus at the genomic level and clarify the taxonomic position of Ockelbo virus within the alphavirus genus. The numbers of nucleotides and of translated amino acids in each region of the Ockelbo virus genome were exactly the same as those for the prototype AR339 strain of Sindbis virus except for three small deletions and insertions in the C-terminal half of nsP3 and for three single nucleotide insertions and deletions in the 3' untranslated region. Overall there were 672 nucleotide differences (5. 7% divergence), resulting in 97 amino acid changes (2.6% divergence), between the two viruses: more than 85% of the nucleotide changes were silent. Only the C-terminal domain of nsP3 and the E2 glycoprotein showed a higher degree of amino acid substitution than the overall average. The former domain is not conserved among alphaviruses, and the latter is primarily responsible for antigenic variation. Sequence analysis of 420 nucleotides at the 3' end of a number of other Sindbis-like alphaviruses, including Karelian fever virus and South African, Indian, and Australian isolates of Sindbis virus, demonstrated that Ockelbo virus is more closely related to South African strains of Sindbis virus than it is to the prototypic Egyptian AR339 strain. Thus the South African strains, which have caused epidemic disease in humans, may have been introduced into Northern Europe by man or by migratory birds to establish Ockelbo disease there. The Indian and Australian strains form a distinct branch of the evolutionary tree and differ from prototypic AR339 Sindbis virus in 17% of the nucleotides sequenced.

Additional Information

© 1991 Academic Press, Inc. Received December 19, 1990; accepted February 19, 1991. This work was supported by Grant AI 10793 from the National Institutes of Health and by Contract DAMD17-90-C-0050 from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command.

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