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Shared Common Ancestry of Rodent Alphacoronaviruses Sampled Globally

  • Tsoleridis, Theocharis
  • Chappell, Joseph G.
  • Onianwa, Okechukwu
  • Marston, Denise A.
  • Fooks, Anthony R.
  • Monchatre-Leroy, Elodie
  • Umhang, Gérald
  • Müller, Marcel A.
  • Drexler, Jan F.
  • Drosten, Christian
  • Tarlinton, Rachael E.
  • McClure, Charles P.
  • Holmes, Edward C.
  • Ball, Jonathan K.
Publication Date
Jan 30, 2019
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The recent discovery of novel alphacoronaviruses (alpha-CoVs) in European and Asian rodents revealed that rodent coronaviruses (CoVs) sampled worldwide formed a discrete phylogenetic group within this genus. To determine the evolutionary history of rodent CoVs in more detail, particularly the relative frequencies of virus-host co-divergence and cross-species transmission, we recovered longer fragments of CoV genomes from previously discovered European rodent alpha-CoVs using a combination of PCR and high-throughput sequencing. Accordingly, the full genome sequence was retrieved from the UK rat coronavirus, along with partial genome sequences from the UK field vole and Poland-resident bank vole CoVs, and a short conserved ORF1b fragment from the French rabbit CoV. Genome and phylogenetic analysis showed that despite their diverse geographic origins, all rodent alpha-CoVs formed a single monophyletic group and shared similar features, such as the same gene constellations, a recombinant beta-CoV spike gene, and similar core transcriptional regulatory sequences (TRS). These data suggest that all rodent alpha CoVs sampled so far originate from a single common ancestor, and that there has likely been a long-term association between alpha CoVs and rodents. Despite this likely antiquity, the phylogenetic pattern of the alpha-CoVs was also suggestive of relatively frequent host-jumping among the different rodent species.

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