To better define the molecular epidemiology of bluetongue virus (BTV) infection, the genetic characteristics and phylogenetic relationships of the S3 genes of the five U.S. prototype strains of BTV, the commercially available serotype 10 modified live virus vaccine, and 18 field isolates of BTV serotypes 10, 11, 13, and 17 obtained in California during 1980, 1981, 1989, and 1990 were determined. With the exception of the S3 gene of the U.S. prototype strain of BTV serotype 2 (BTV 2), these viruses had an overall sequence homology of between 95 and 100%. Phylogenetic analyses segregated the prototype U.S. BTV 2 strain to a unique branch (100% bootstrap value), whereas the rest of the viruses clustered in two main monophyletic groups that were not correlated with their serotype, year of isolation, or geographical origin. The lack of consistent association between S3 gene sequence and virus serotype likely is a consequence of reassortment of BTV gene segments during natural mixed infections of vertebrate and invertebrate hosts. The prototype strain of BTV 13, which is considered an introduction to the U.S. like BTV 2, presents an S3 gene which is highly homologous to those of some isolates of BTV 10 and especially to that of the vaccine strain. This finding strongly suggests that the U.S. prototype strain of BTV 13 is a natural reassortant. The different topologies of the phylogenetic trees of the L2 and S3 genes of the various viruses indicate that these two genome segments evolve independently. We conclude that the S3 gene segment of populations of BTV in California is formed by different consensus sequences which cocirculate and which cannot be grouped by serotype.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science