In order to determine the genomic heterogeneity of ovine lentiviruses, we analysed eight isolates from naturally infected sheep from one geographical region of France. A 475 nt fragment in the region of the gene coding for reverse transcriptase was amplified by RT-PCR from RNA directly extracted from uncultured bronchoalveolar lavage cells. The resulting PCR fragments were analysed by restriction enzyme digestion, cloned in a TA vector and sequenced. Restriction enzyme analysis showed distinct patterns from the eight isolates, and sequencing showed them to be closely related in both nucleotide (2.3–8.1% variation) and deduced amino acid (0–6.2% variation) sequences. Their amino acid sequences differed from that of visna-maedi virus complete viral genome sequence K1514 by 12.5–15.3%, but from that of caprine arthritis encephalitis virus (CAEV) viral genome sequence Co by only 4.2–6.9%. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the French isolates form a group related to CAEV Co and distant from previously reported ovine lentivirus sequences from different origins.


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