We have previously classified isolates from a respiratory syncytial (RS) virus epidemic into distinct lineages by restriction mapping and nucleotide sequencing of parts of the nucleocapsid protein and small hydrophobic protein genes, which are areas of the genome not considered to be under immunological pressure. This study has now been extended by the determination of the nucleotide sequences of the attachment (G) protein genes of isolates from each subgroup A lineage. Deduced amino acid identities of the G proteins ranged between 80% and 99%, corresponding closely to the previously determined relatedness of the lineages. The amino acid variability was not evenly distributed; in the extracellular part of the protein there was a sharply defined hypervariable domain which was separated from a more extended variable domain by a highly conserved region. Most nucleotide changes in the variable domains were in the first and second positions of the codon triplets. These results suggest that there may be considerable immunological pressure for change in certain areas of the G protein and this may account for the ability of this virus to reinfect individuals repeatedly. The results presented here reflect the pattern of published data comparing prototype strains of the A and B subgroups.


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