Complete sequence of two tick-borne flaviviruses isolated from Siberia and the UK: analysis and significance of the 5′ and 3′-UTRs.
The complete nucleotide sequence of 2 tick-transmitted flaviviruses, Vasilchenko (Vs) from Siberia, Russia, and louping ill (LI) from the UK, were determined. The genomes were respectively, 10928 and 10871 nucleotides (nt) in length. The coding strategy and functional protein sequence motifs of tick-borne flaviviruses are presented in both Vs and LI viruses. The phylogenies based on maximum likelihood, maximum parsimony and distance analysis of the polyproteins, identified Vs virus as a member of the tick-borne encephalitis virus subgroup within the tick-borne serocomplex, genus Flavivirus. Comparative alignment of the 3′-untranslated regions revealed deletions of different lengths essentially at the same position downstream of the stop codon for all tick-borne viruses. Two direct 27 nucleotide repeats at the 3′-end were found only for Vs and LI virus. Immediately following the deletions a region of 332-334 nt with relatively conserved primary structure (67-94% identity) was observed at the 3′-non-coding end of the virus genome. Pairwise comparisons of the nucleotide sequence data revealed similar levels of variation between the coding region, and the 5′ and 3′-termini of the genome, implying an equivalent strong selective control for translated and untranslated regions. Indeed the predicted folding of the 5′ and 3′-untranslated regions revealed patterns of stem and loop structures conserved for all tick-borne flaviviruses suggesting a purifying selection for preservation of essential RNA secondary structures which could be involved in translational control and replication. The possible implications of these findings are discussed.