In order to evaluate genetic variation between rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) isolates and to derive phylogenetic relationships, 56 virus isolates collected from various parts of France over a 7 year period (1988 to 1995) were examined. Analyses were carried out by direct nucleotide sequencing of PCR fragments of three genomic regions encoding the capsid protein (VP60) (regions A and B) and a non-structural protein (region C). Multiple sequence alignments revealed maximum nucleotide divergence of 7.6, 9.4 and 8.7% for regions A, B and C, respectively, indicating a high level of conservation between isolates. Irrespective of the genomic region analysed, phylogenetic analyses carried out using various methods allowed the identification of three genogroups; distribution of isolates within these genogroups appears to be more related to the year of their collection than to their geographical origin. The possible evolution of RHDV is discussed.


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