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Human adenoviruses (HAdV) are causing a broad spectrum of diseases. One of the most severe forms of adenovirus infection is a disseminated disease resulting in significant morbidity and mortality. Several reports in recent years have identified HAdV-31 from species A (HAdV-A31) as a cause of disseminated disease in children following haematopoetic stem cell transplantation (hSCT) and liver transplantation. We sequenced and analyzed the complete genome of the HAdV-A31 prototype strain to uncover unique sequence motifs associated with its high virulence. Moreover, we sequenced coding regions known to be essential for tropism and virulence (early transcription units E1A, E3, E4, the fiber knob and the penton base) of HAdV-A31 clinical isolates from patients with disseminated disease.
The genome size of HAdV-A31 is 33763 base pairs (bp) in length with a GC content of 46.36%. Nucleotide alignment to the closely related HAdV-A12 revealed an overall homology of 84.2%. The genome organization into early, intermediate and late regions is similar to HAdV-A12. Sequence analysis of the prototype strain showed unique sequence features such as an immunoglobulin-like domain in the species A specific gene product E3 CR1 beta and a potentially integrin binding RGD motif in the C-terminal region of the protein IX. These features were conserved in all analyzed clinical isolates. Overall, amino acid sequences of clinical isolates were highly conserved compared to the prototype (99.2 to 100%), but a synonymous/non synonymous ratio (S/N) of 2.36 in E3 CR1 beta suggested positive selection.
Unique sequence features of HAdV-A31 may enhance its ability to escape the host's immune surveillance and may facilitate a promiscuous tropism for various tissues. Moderate evolution of clinical isolates did not indicate the emergence of new HAdV-A31 subtypes in the recent years.