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Bioinformatics and evolutionary insight on the spike glycoprotein gene of QX-like and Massachusetts strains of infectious bronchitis virus

Shahid Hussain Abro12*, Karin Ullman2, Sándor Belák12 and Claudia Baule2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biomedical Sciences and Veterinary Public Health, Section of Virology, The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Ulls Väg 2B, SE-751 89, Uppsala, Sweden

2 Department of Virology, Immunobiology and Parasitology, The National Veterinary Institute, Ulls Väg 2B, SE-751 89, Uppsala, Sweden

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Virology Journal 2012, 9:211  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-9-211

Published: 19 September 2012



Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) is a Gammacoronavirus of the family Coronaviridae and is a causative agent of an economically important disease in poultry. The spike glycoprotein of IBV is essential for host cell attachment, neutralization, and is involved in the induction of protective immunity. Previously obtained sequence data of the spike gene of IBV QX-like and Massachusetts strains were subjected to bioinformatics analysis.


On analysis of potential phosphorylation sites, the Ser542 and Ser563 sites were not present in Massachusetts strains, while QX-like isolates did not have the Ser534 site. Massachusetts and QX-like strains showed different cleavage site motifs. The N-glycosylation sites ASN-XAA-SER/THR-55, 147, 200 and 545 were additionally present in QX-like strains. The leucine-rich repeat regions in Massachusetts strains consisted of stretches of 63 to 69 amino acids, while in the QX-like strains they contained 59 amino acids in length. An additional palmitoylation site was observed in CK/SWE/082066/2010 a QX-like strain. Primary structure data showed difference in the physical properties and hydrophobic nature of both genotypes. The comparison of secondary structures revealed no new structural domains in the genotypic variants. The phylogenetic analyses based on avian and mammalian coronaviruses showed the analysed IBV as closely related to turkey coronaviruses and distantly related to thrush and munia coronaviruses.


The study demonstrated that spike glycoprotein of the Massachusetts and the QX-like variants of IBV are molecularly distinct and that this may reflect in differences in the behavior of these viruses in vivo.

Infectious bronchitis virus; Spike glycoprotein; Bioinformatics; Coronavirus; Evolution