In the genomes of two baculoviruses, Spodoptera exigua and S. littoralis multicapsid nucleopolyhedroviruses (SeMNPV and SpliMNPV, respectively), an open reading frame (ORF) encoding the large subunit of ribonucleotide reductase (RR1) was identified. The predicted amino acid sequences of SeMNPV and SpliMNPV RR1 showed high homology to RR1 proteins from eukaryotes (ca. 70% and 80% similarity, respectively). The amino acid residues thought to be involved in catalytic function were conserved in the baculoviral RR1 ORFs. The RR1 ORFs in SeMNPV and SpliMNPV were located in different genomic positions. In SeMNPV, the RR1 ORF was located upstream of the polyhedrin gene, in an anti-genomic orientation. In SpliMNPV, the RR1 ORF preceded the p74 gene. By searching databanks, sequences homologous to the N terminus of RR1 were also detected upstream of the polyhedrin gene of three other baculoviruses, Mamestra brassicae multicapsid NPV, Panolis flammea multicapsid NPV and Orgyia pseudotsugata single nucleocapsid NPV. The baculovirus type species, Autographica californica multicapsid NPV, however, does not encode RR. A 2.7 kb transcript could be detected throughout infection with SeMNPV, classifying SeMNPV rr1 as an early gene. Primer extension analysis revealed several early and late start sites. None of the major start sites showed similarity to previously characterized baculoviral transcriptional start motifs. Phylogenetic analysis of prokaryotic, eukaryotic and viral RR1 proteins suggested that SeMNPV and SpliMNPV acquired the gene for RR1 from a eukaryotic source, but independently from each other.


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