The length of the published glycoprotein (G) gene sequences of avian metapneumovirus subtype-C (aMPV-C) isolated from domestic turkeys and wild birds in the United States (1996-2003) remains controversial. To explore the G gene size variation in aMPV-C by the year of isolation and cell culture passage levels, we examined 21 turkey isolates of aMPV-C at different cell culture passages. The early domestic turkey isolates of aMPV-C (aMPV/CO/1996, aMPV/MN/1a-b, and 2a-b/97) had a G gene of 1,798 nucleotides (nt) that coded for a predicted protein of 585 amino acids (aa) and showed >97% nt similarity with that of aMPV-C isolated from Canada geese. This large G gene got truncated upon serial passages in Vero cell cultures by deletion of 1,015 nt near the end of the open reading frame. The recent domestic turkey isolates of aMPV-C lacked the large G gene but instead had a small G gene of 783 nt, irrespective of cell culture passage levels. In some cultures, both large and small genes were detected, indicating the existence of a mixed population of the virus. Apparently, serial passage of aMPV-C in cell cultures and natural passage in turkeys in the field led to truncation of the G gene, which may be a mechanism of virus evolution for survival in a new host or environment.
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Acknowledgments This project was funded by Minnesota Agriculture Experiment Station, Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council, and USDA, ARS CRIS project 6612-32000-044. The authors thankfully acknowledge the technical support of Xiuqin Xia. The help and suggestions of Drs. Richard Bennett, Anil Thachil, Devi Patnayak, Sagar Goyal, and Anmei Cai are also thankfully acknowledged.
- Avian metapneumovirus
- Gene variation