The complete RNA genome of avian encephalomyelitis virus (AEV) has been molecularly cloned and sequenced. This revealed AEV to be a member of the Picornaviridae and consequently it is the first avian picornavirus for which the genome has been sequenced. Excluding the poly(A) tail the genome comprises 7032 nucleotides, which is shorter than that of any mammalian picornavirus sequenced to date. An open reading frame commencing at nucleotide 495 and terminating at position 6896 (6402 nucleotides) potentially encodes a polyprotein of 2134 amino acids. The polyprotein sequence has 39% overall amino acid identity with hepatitis A virus (HAV; genus Hepatovirus), compared to 19 to 21% for viruses from the other five picornavirus genera. Eleven cleavage products were predicted. The highest identity (49%) with HAV was in the P1 region, encoding the capsid proteins. The 5' and 3' untranslated regions (UTRs) comprise 494 and 136 nucleotides, respectively. The 5' UTR is the shortest of any picornavirus sequenced to date and, unlike HAV, it does not contain a long polypyrimidine tract.


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