We determined the complete nucleotide sequences of the cognate L1 double-stranded RNA segments of bluetongue virus (BTV) serotypes 2, 11, 13, and 17, which encode the putative RNA-directed RNA polymerase VP1. Each L1 gene contained 3944 nucleotides and was 10 bases shorter than the previously reported L1 gene of BTV 10. A single open reading frame which could encode the reported VP1 protein, 1302 amino acids in size, began with an initiation codon at nucleotides 12-14 and a termination codon at nucleotides 3918-3920. Analyses of the nucleotides of L1 genes and the deduced amino acid sequences of VP1 proteins of the five U. S. BTV serotypes indicated that the most recently isolated BTV-2 serotype from Florida was more distantly related than BTV-10, 11, 13, and 17, which were isolated primarily in the western U.S.A. The results are consistent with our hypothesis that BTVs-10, -11, -13, and -17 are derived from a single and common gene pool, and that BTV-2 belongs to a second, distinct gene pool. These genetic distinctions also reflected well with the known geographic distribution of the five U.S. BTV serotypes in North America. This putative RNA-directed RNA polymerase (149 KDa) was a basic protein, and the deduced amino acid sequences of the VP1 proteins contained seven highly conserved hydrophobic domains and many other sequence motifs which were also found in other known RNA polymerases. Four immunodominant but linear antigenic epitopes conserved among the VP1 of five U.S. BTVs were also been identified and mapped using monospecific oligoclonal antibodies.
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