To determine the genetic relationship of the virulent Australian bluetongue virus serotype 23 with that of other serotypes and to identify the extent and nature of the antigenic variation among seven serotypes of bluetongue virus (BTV), the complete nucleotide sequence was determined for cDNA clones representing the L2 dsRNA of BTV-23, the gene that codes for the outer capsid neutralization antigen (VP2). The predicted amino acid sequence of the protein was compared with the VP2 sequences of the five USA serotypes (BTV-2, -10, -11, -13 and -17) as well as with an Australian isolate of BTV-1. The comparisons revealed that the VP2 of BTV-23 is most closely related to that of BTV-1, sharing 52% identical and 72% similar sequences, also that the VP2 of the two Australian serotypes are more closely related to that of BTV-2 than to the other four USA serotypes. Only 22% identical sequences are shared by all seven VP2 molecules; however, when homologous substitutions are considered the similarity index was as high as 48%. In addition, the conserved regions that have been identified previously for other VP2 molecules are also conserved in BTV-23. © 1994.
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