The complete necleotide sequence of the visna virus 1514 gemome was determined. Our sequence confirms the relationship of visna virus and other lentiviruses to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) both at the level of sequence homology and of genomic organization. Sequence homology is shown to extend to the transmembrane proteins of lentivirus env genes; this homology is strongest in the extracellular domain, suggesting that close structural and functional similarities may also exist among these envelope proteins. Comparison of our data with the sequence of visna virus LV1-1, an antigenic variant derived from strain 1514, demonstrates that the rate of divergence has been about 1.7 x 10-3 substitutions per nucleotide per year in vivo. This rate is orders of magnitude higher than that for most DNA genomes, but agrees well with estimates of the rate for HIV. A statistically significant cluster of mutations in the env gene appears to represent a hypervariable site and may correspond to the epitope responsible for the antigenic differences between 1514 and LV1-1. Analysis of the potential RNA folding pattern of the visna virus env gene shows that this hypervariable site falls within a region with little potential for intramolecular base pairing. This correlation of hypervariability with lack of RNA secondary structure is strengthened by the fact that it also holds for a hypervariable site in the env gene of HIV.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science