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Open Access Research

Analysis of whole genome sequences of 16 strains of rubella virus from the United States, 1961–2009

Emily Abernathy1, Min-hsin Chen1, Jayati Bera2, Susmita Shrivastava2, Ewen Kirkness2, Qi Zheng1, William Bellini1 and Joseph Icenogle1*

  • * Corresponding author: Joseph Icenogle jci1@cdc.gov

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia

2 J. Craig Venter Institute, Rockville, Maryland, USA

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Virology Journal 2013, 10:32  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-10-32

Published: 25 January 2013

Abstract

Rubella virus is the causative agent of rubella, a mild rash illness, and a potent teratogenic agent when contracted by a pregnant woman. Global rubella control programs target the reduction and elimination of congenital rubella syndrome. Phylogenetic analysis of partial sequences of rubella viruses has contributed to virus surveillance efforts and played an important role in demonstrating that indigenous rubella viruses have been eliminated in the United States. Sixteen wild-type rubella viruses were chosen for whole genome sequencing. All 16 viruses were collected in the United States from 1961 to 2009 and are from 8 of the 13 known rubella genotypes. Phylogenetic analysis of 30 whole genome sequences produced a maximum likelihood tree giving high bootstrap values for all genotypes except provisional genotype 1a. Comparison of the 16 new complete sequences and 14 previously sequenced wild-type viruses found regions with clusters of variable amino acids. The 5 250 nucleotides of the genome are more conserved than any other part of the genome. Genotype specific deletions in the untranslated region between the non-structural and structural open reading frames were observed for genotypes 2B and genotype 1G. No evidence was seen for recombination events among the 30 viruses. The analysis presented here is consistent with previous reports on the genetic characterization of rubella virus genomes. Conserved and variable regions were identified and additional evidence for genotype specific nucleotide deletions in the intergenic region was found. Phylogenetic analysis confirmed genotype groupings originally based on structural protein coding region sequences, which provides support for the WHO nomenclature for genetic characterization of wild-type rubella viruses.

Keywords:
Rubella virus; Whole genome