Bluetongue virus (BTV) is the 'type' species of the genus Orbivirus within the family Reoviridae. The BTV genome is composed of ten linear segments of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), each of which codes for one of ten distinct viral proteins. Previous phylogenetic comparisons have evaluated variations in genome segment 3 (Seg-3) nucleotide sequence as way to identify the geographical origin (different topotypes) of BTV isolates. The full-length nucleotide sequence of genome Seg-3 was determined for thirty BTV isolates recovered in the eastern Mediterranean region, the Balkans and other geographic areas (Spain, India, Malaysia and Africa). These data were compared, based on molecular variability, positive-selection-analysis and maximum-likelihood phylogenetic reconstructions (using appropriate substitution models) to 24 previously published sequences, revealing their evolutionary relationships. These analyses indicate that negative selection is a major force in the evolution of BTV, restricting nucleotide variability, reducing the evolutionary rate of Seg-3 and potentially of other regions of the BTV genome. Phylogenetic analysis of the BTV-4 strains isolated over a relatively long time interval (1979-2000), in a single geographic area (Greece), showed a low level of nucleotide diversity, indicating that the virus can circulate almost unchanged for many years. These analyses also show that the recent incursions into south-eastern Europe were caused by BTV strains belonging to two different major-lineages: representing an 'eastern' (BTV-9, -16 and -1) and a 'western' (BTV-4) group/topotype. Epidemiological and phylogenetic analyses indicate that these viruses originated from a geographic area to the east and southeast of Greece (including Cyprus and the Middle East), which appears to represent an important ecological niche for the virus that is likely to represent a continuing source of future BTV incursions into Europe. © 2009 Nomikou et al.
Nomikou, K., Dovas, C. I., Maan, S., Anthony, S. J., Samuel, A. R., Papanastassopoulou, M., … Mertens, P. P. C. (2009). Evolution and phylogenetic analysis of full-length VP3 genes of eastern Mediterranean bluetongue virus isolates. PLoS ONE, 4(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0006437