The 26S mRNA and most of the nsP4 encoding regions of the eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE) viral genome have been cloned. Excluding the poly(A) tail, the 26S mRNA region was determined to be 4139 nucleotides long and to share the same general organization as that of other alphaviruses. A highly conserved region of 19 nucleotides, the putative transcriptase recognition site for 26S mRNA synthesis, was present at the 26S/42S junction region of the 42S genomic RNA. Translation of the 26S mRNA began at the first AUG (positions 59 to 61) initiation codon and continued with an open reading frame that coded for a polyprotein of 1258 amino acids ending at a UAA ochre termination codon (positions 3776 to 3778). All four putative posttranslational cleavage sites used to generate the capsid, E3, E2, 6K and E1 proteins were conserved. Transmembrane domains present in the EEE virus structural polyprotein have been identified and their functions discussed. Pairwise comparison of the deduced amino acid sequences of the polyproteins of five alphaviruses (EEE, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, Sindbis, Semliki Forest and Ross River viruses) revealed EEE virus to be more closely related to VEE virus than to the other three viruses.
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