Evolution of viruses in the eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE) complex was studied by analyzing RNA sequences and oligonucleotide fingerprints from isolates representing the North and South American antigenic varieties. By using homologous sequences of Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis virus as an outgroup, phylogenetic trees revealed three main EEE virus monophyletic groups. A North American variety group included all isolates from North America and the Caribbean. One South American variety group included isolates from the Amazon basin in Brazil and Peru, while the other included strains from Argentina, Guyana, Ecuador, Panama, Trinidad, and Venezuela. No evidence of heterologous recombination was obtained when three separate regions of the EEE virus genome were analyzed independently. Estimates of the overall rate of EEE virus evolution (nucleotide substitution) were 1.6 x 10-4 substitution per nucleotide per year for the North American group and 4.3 x 10-4 for the Argentina-Panama South American group. Evolutionary rate estimates for the North American group increased over 10-fold (from about 2 x 10-5 to 4 x 10-4) concurrent with divergence of two monophyletic groups during the early 1970s. The North and South American antigenic varieties diverged roughly 1,000 years ago, while the two main South American groups diverged about 450 years ago. Analysis of multiple strains isolated from an upstate New York transmission focus during the same years suggested that, in certain locations, EEE virus may be relatively isolated for short time periods.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science