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Glycoprotein gene truncation in avian metapneumovirus subtype C isolates from the United States

Virus Genes
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1007/s11262-008-0220-6
  • Article
  • Biology


The length of the published glycoprotein (G) gene sequences of avian metapneumovirus subtype-C (aMPV-C) isolated from domestic turkeys and wild birds in the United States (1996–2003) remains controversial. To explore the G gene size variation in aMPV-C by the year of isolation and cell culture passage levels, we examined 21 turkey isolates of aMPV-C at different cell culture passages. The early domestic turkey isolates of aMPV-C (aMPV/CO/1996, aMPV/MN/1a-b, and 2a-b/97) had a G gene of 1,798 nucleotides (nt) that coded for a predicted protein of 585 amino acids (aa) and showed >97% nt similarity with that of aMPV-C isolated from Canada geese. This large G gene got truncated upon serial passages in Vero cell cultures by deletion of 1,015 nt near the end of the open reading frame. The recent domestic turkey isolates of aMPV-C lacked the large G gene but instead had a small G gene of 783 nt, irrespective of cell culture passage levels. In some cultures, both large and small genes were detected, indicating the existence of a mixed population of the virus. Apparently, serial passage of aMPV-C in cell cultures and natural passage in turkeys in the field led to truncation of the G gene, which may be a mechanism of virus evolution for survival in a new host or environment.

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