We isolated three strains of canine distemper virus (CDV)--the Ueno, Hamamatsu, and Yanaka strains--from dogs in Japan and analysed the molecular properties of their haemagglutinin (H) proteins. Immunoprecipitation of all three strains with a monoclonal antibody revealed H proteins with molecular masses of 84 kDa, which differs from the molecular mass (78 kDa) of the H protein of the Onderstepoort vaccine strain. However, after tunicamycin treatment immunoprecipitation identified H proteins of identical molecular mass (68 kDa) for all three field isolates and the vaccine strain. Sequence analysis showed nine potential sites for asparagine-linked glycosylation in the H proteins of the new isolates, in contrast to four in the H protein of the Onderstepoort strain. Thus, variation in glycosylation of the H proteins of the isolates and the vaccine strain may cause differences in antigenicity of the viruses. Sequences of the H genes showed that the new Japanese isolates have 99% identity with each other, 95% with other European and American isolates (from seals, a German dog, a ferret and large felids) and 90% with the vaccine strain. Phylogenetically, the new Japanese isolates form one cluster which is separate from recent European or American isolates, all of which are distinct from vaccine strains.


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