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Complete genomic sequence of human coronavirus OC43: molecular clock analysis suggests a relatively recent zoonotic coronavirus transmission event.

Vijgen L., Keyaerts E., Moes E., Thoelen I., Wollants E., Lemey P., Vandamme A.M., Van Ranst M.

Coronaviruses are enveloped, positive-stranded RNA viruses with a genome of approximately 30 kb. Based on genetic similarities, coronaviruses are classified into three groups. Two group 2 coronaviruses, human coronavirus OC43 (HCoV-OC43) and bovine coronavirus (BCoV), show remarkable antigenic and genetic similarities. In this study, we report the first complete genome sequence (30,738 nucleotides) of the prototype HCoV-OC43 strain (ATCC VR759). Complete genome and open reading frame (ORF) analyses were performed in comparison to the BCoV genome. In the region between the spike and membrane protein genes, a 290-nucleotide deletion is present, corresponding to the absence of BCoV ORFs ns4.9 and ns4.8. Nucleotide and amino acid similarity percentages were determined for the major HCoV-OC43 ORFs and for those of other group 2 coronaviruses. The highest degree of similarity is demonstrated between HCoV-OC43 and BCoV in all ORFs with the exception of the E gene. Molecular clock analysis of the spike gene sequences of BCoV and HCoV-OC43 suggests a relatively recent zoonotic transmission event and dates their most recent common ancestor to around 1890. An evolutionary rate in the order of 4 x 10(-4) nucleotide changes per site per year was estimated. This is the first animal-human zoonotic pair of coronaviruses that can be analyzed in order to gain insights into the processes of adaptation of a nonhuman coronavirus to a human host, which is important for understanding the interspecies transmission events that led to the origin of the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak.

J. Virol. 79:1595-1604(2005) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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