Unclassified Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) viruses Tonate (TON), Bijou Bridge (BB), Paramana (PARA), 71D-1252 and Cabassou (CAB) were characterized serologically and biochemically. The envelope glycoproteins of these and nine other VEE viruses representing VEE subtype variants I-AB, I-C, I-D, I-E, II, III and IV were separated by column isoelectric focusing. The E1 and E2 glycoproteins of all the Zwittergent-dissociated VEE viruses focused at pI 6·3 to 6·9 and pI 8·6 to 9·3 respectively. Haemagglutination-inhibition and neutralization tests using rabbit sera to the E2 glycoprotein of TON, BB and PARA viruses showed them to be indistinguishable from each other and closely related to prototype subtype III virus Mucambo (MUC). VEE strain 71D-1252 was also serologically closely related to prototype MUC virus. We proposed that MUC, TON and 71D-1252 VEE viruses be classified subtype III viruses, designated variants III-A, III-B and III-C respectively. CAB virus, which is not closely related to other VEE isolates, may represent a new VEE subtype (V). SDS-PAGE resolved the capsid protein (35 to 36 kdal) and two major envelope glycoproteins of 50 to 51 kdal (E1) and 51 to 58 kdal (E2) for all VEE viruses except CAB; the two glycoproteins of CAB virus co-migrated by PAGE with apparent identical mol. wt. of 51 kdal. Limited digestion of SDS-dissociated virus proteins with Staphylococcus aureus V8 protease produced identical peptide maps for serologically indistinguishable viruses. Olignonucleotide fingerprinting of virus RNA supported the close serological relationships observed at the genome level.
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