Recent studies have indicated that epizootic Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) viruses can evolve from enzootic, subtype ID strains that circulate continuously in lowland tropical forests (A. M. Powers, M. S. Oberste, A. C. Brault, R. Rico-Hesse, S. M. Schmura, J. F. Smith, W. Kang, W. P. Sweeney, and S. C. Weaver, J. Virol. 71:6697-6705, 1997). To identify mutations associated with the phenotypic changes leading to epizootics, we sequenced the entire genomes of two subtype IC epizootic VEE virus strains isolated during a 1992-1993 Venezuelan outbreak and four sympatric, subtype ID enzootic strains closely related to the predicted epizootic progenitor. Analysis by maximum-parsimony phylogenetic methods revealed 25 nucleotide differences which were predicted to have accompanied the 1992 epizootic emergence; 7 of these encoded amino acid changes in the nsP1, nsP3, capsid, and E2 envelope glycoprotein, and 2 were mutations in the 3' untranslated genome region. Comparisons with the genomic sequences of IAB and other IC epizootic VEE virus strains revealed that only one of the seven amino acid changes associated with the 1992 emergence, a threonine-to-methionine change at position 360 of the nsP3 protein, accompanied another VEE virus emergence event. Two changes in the E2 envelope glycoprotein region believed to include the major antigenic determinants, both involving replacement of uncharged residues with arginine, are also candidates for epizootic determinants.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science