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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Role of biased hypermutation in evolution of subacute sclerosing panencephalitis virus from progenitor acute measles virus.

We identified an acute measles virus (Nagahata strain) closely related to a defective virus (Biken strain) isolated from a patient with subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE). The proteins of Nagahata strain measles virus are antigenically and electrophoretically similar to the proteins of Edmonston strain measles virus. However, the nucleotide sequence of the Nagahata matrix ( M) gene is significantly different from the M genes of all the acute measles virus strains studied to date. The Nagahata M gene is strikingly similar to the M gene of Biken strain SSPE virus isolated several years later in the same locale. Eighty percent of the nucleotide differences between the Nagahata and Biken M genes are uridine-to-cytosine transitions known as biased hypermutation, which has been postulated to be caused by a cellular RNA-modifying activity. These biased mutations account for all but one of the numerous missense genetic changes predicted to cause amino acid substitutions. As a result, the Biken virus M protein loses conformation-specific epitopes that are conserved in the M proteins of Nagahata and Edmonston strain acute measles viruses. These conformation-specific epitopes are also absent in the cryptic M proteins encoded by the hypermutated M genes of two other defective SSPE viruses (Niigata and Yamagata strains). Nagahata-like sequences are found in the M genes of at least five other SSPE viruses isolated from three continents. These data indicate that Biken strain SSPE virus is derived from a progenitor closely resembling Nagahata strain acute measles virus and that biased hypermutation is largely responsible for the structural defects in the Biken virus M protein.[1]


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