A 20089 nucleotide (nt) sequence was determined for the 5′ end of the (+)-ssRNA genome of gill-associated virus (GAV), a yellow head-like virus infecting prawns. Clones were generated from a ∼22 kb dsRNA purified from lymphoid organ total RNA of GAV-infected prawns. The region contains a single gene comprising two long overlapping open reading frames, ORF1a and ORF1b, of 4060 and 2646 amino acids, respectively. The ORFs are structurally related to the ORF1a and ORF1ab polyproteins of coronaviruses and arteriviruses. The 99 nt overlap between ORF1a and ORF1b contains a putative AAAUUUU ‘slippery’ sequence associated with −1 ribosomal frameshifting. A 131 nt stem–loop with the potential to form a complex pseudoknot resides 3 nt downstream of this sequence. Although different to the G/UUUAAAC frameshift sites and ‘H-type’ pseudoknots of nidoviruses, transcription/translation analysis demonstrated that the GAV element also facilitates read-through of the ORF1a/1b junction. As in coronaviruses, GAV ORF1a encodes a 3C-like cysteine protease domain located between two hydrophobic regions. However, its sequence suggests some structural relationship to the chymotrypsin-like serine proteases of arteriviruses. ORF1b encodes homologues of the ‘SDD’ polymerase, which among (+)-RNA viruses is unique to nidoviruses, as well as metal-ion-binding and helicase domains. The presence of a dsRNA replicative intermediate and ORF1a and ORF1ab polyproteins translated by a −1 frameshift suggests that GAV represents the first invertebrate member of the Order .


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