Comparative Genome Analysis of Four Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesviruses, EEHV3, EEHV4, EEHV5, and EEHV6, from Cases of Hemorrhagic Disease or Viremia

Author(s): Jian-Chao Zong, Erin M. Latimer, Simon Y. Long, Laura K. Richman, Sarah Y. Heaggans, Gary S. Hayward

Publication: Journal of Virology

Publication Date: 2014

Abstract: The genomes of three types of novel endotheliotropic herpesviruses (elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus 1A [EEHV1A], EEHV1B, and EEHV2) associated with lethal hemorrhagic disease in Asian elephants have been previously well characterized and assigned to a new Proboscivirus genus. Here we have generated 112 kb of DNA sequence data from segments of four more types of EEHV by direct targeted PCR from blood samples or necropsy tissue samples from six viremic elephants. Comparative phylogenetic analysis of nearly 30 protein-encoding genes of EEHV5 and EEHV6 show that they diverge uniformly by nearly 20% from their closest relatives, EEHV2 and EEHV1A, respectively, and are likely to have similar overall gene content and genome organization. In contrast, seven EEHV3 and EEHV4 genes analyzed differ from those of all other EEHVs by 37% and have aG+ C content of 63% compared to just 42% for the others. Three strains of EEHV5 analyzed clustered into two partially chimeric subgroups EEHV5A and EEHV5B that diverge by 19% within three small noncontiguous segments totaling 6.2 kb. We conclude that all six EEHV types should be designated as independent species within a proposed new fourth Deltaherpesvirinae subfamily of mammalian herpesviruses. These virus types likely initially diverged close to 100 million years ago when the ancestors of modern elephants split from all other placental mammals and then evolved into two major branches with high- or low-G+C content about 35 million years ago. Later additional branching events subsequently generated three paired sister taxon lineages of which EEHV1 plus EEHV6, EEHV5 plus EEHV2, and EEHV4 plus EEHV3 may represent Asian and African elephant versions, respectively.

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