Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is associated with respiratory tract illness especially in young children. Two hMPV genetic lineages, A and B, and four sublineages A1, A2 and B1, B2 have been defined. Infection with hMPV occurs through membrane fusion mediated by the hMPV fusion (F) protein. In this study, the inter- and intra-patient genetic diversity of the lineage A hMPV F gene was investigated. Ten isolates were collected from 10 hMPV infected children. Viral RNA was isolated and amplified, and approximately 10 clones from each isolate were sequenced. Altogether 108 clones were successfully sequenced. The average interpatient sequence diversity was 1.68% and 1.64% at nucleotide and amino acid levels, respectively. The samples were divisible into two groups on the basis of intrapatient sequence diversity. In group 1 (4 children) the intra-patient sequence diversity was low (nt: 0.26-0.39%, aa: 0.51-0.94%) whereas group 2 (6 children) had a higher intra-patient sequence diversity (nt: 0.85-1.98%, aa: 1.08-2.22%). Phylogenetic analyses showed that the group 1 children harboured sublineage A1 only, but interestingly group 2 children harboured both sublineages A1 and A2, indicating they had been infected with at least two viruses. Several independent viruses contained premature stop codons in exactly identical positions resulting in truncated fusion proteins. Possibly this is a mechanism for immune system evasion. The F protein is a major antigenic determinant, and the limited sequence diversity observed lay emphasis on the hMPV F gene as a putative target for future vaccine development.
|Publication status||Published - 2005|
- fusion gene
- phylogenetic analysis