The G protein sequences of fourteen animal rhabdoviruses, representing all four recognized genera (Vesiculovirus, Lyssavirus, Ephemerovirus and Novirhabdovirus) and the ungrouped sigma virus, were aligned using CLUSTAL W and adjusted to account for obvious sequence similarities not detected by the algorithm. Analysis of the alignment indicated remarkable preservation of G protein structural features including cysteine residues, antigenic sites and significant elements of secondary structure (alpha-helices, beta-strands and loops). Twelve highly conserved cysteine residues were assigned numbers (C(I) to C(XII)) according to their location in the alignment. Other cysteine residues were assigned numbers (C0 to C(XIIe)) according to their position relative to the conserved cysteines. The pattern of conservation of cysteine residues and the structural characteristics of identified discontinuous antigenic sites were used to deduce a model for G protein structure. Six absolutely conserved cysteines are predicted to associate in three disulphide bridges (C(I)-C(XII); C(VIII)-C(XI); C(IX)-C(X)) that form the core of the G protein structure and define the common discontinuous antigenic site. The associations of six other highly conserved cysteines (C(II)-C(IV); C(III)-C(V); C(VI)-C(VII)) are predicted by the absence of a specific pair in all viruses within a genus. Of the other cysteines, one pair occurs only in ephemeroviruses and novirhabdoviruses (C0-C(XIIa)); two pairs occur only in ephemeroviruses (C(Ib)-C(VIIIa); C(XIIb)-C(XIIe)); and two pairs occur only in lyssaviruses (C(Ia)-C(VIIIb); C(XIIc)-C(XIId)). The structures predicted by the model account for the preservation of conformational antigenic sites, accommodate genus-specific variations, and are generally consistent with previous observations of G protein structure.


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