The complete nucleotide sequence of Great Island virus (GIV) genome was determined, along with genome segments (Seg) 1, 2 and 6 of Kemerovo (KEMV), Lipovnik (LIPV) and Tribec (TRBV) viruses. All four viruses, together with Broadhaven virus, are currently classified within the species Great Island virus and have been isolated from ticks, birds or humans. Sequence comparisons showed that Seg-4 of GIV encoded the outer-capsid protein responsible for cell attachment, although it was approximately half the length of its counterpart in the Culicoides or mosquito-transmitted orbiviruses. A second overlapping ORF (in the +2 reading frame) was identified in Seg-9 of GIV, encoding a putative dsRNA-binding protein. Phylogenetic analyses of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (Pol) and T2 protein amino acid sequences indicated that the tickborne orbiviruses represent an ancestral group from which the mosquito-borne orbiviruses have evolved. This mirrors the evolutionary relationships between the arthropod vectors of these viruses, supporting a co-speciation hypothesis for these arboviruses and their arthropod-vectors. Phylogenetic analyses of the T2 proteins of KEMV, LIPV, TRBV and GIV (showing 82% amino acid identity) correlated with the early classification of Great Island viruses as two distinct serocomplexes (Great Island and Kemerovo serocomplexes). Amino acid identity levels in the VP1(Pol) and T2 proteins between the two serocomplexes were 73 and 82 %, respectively, whilst those between previously characterized Orbivirus species are 53-73% and 26-83 %, respectively. These data suggest that, despite limited genome segment reassortment between these two groups, their current classification within the same Orbivirus species could be re-evaluated.
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