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Genetic diversity of rotavirus genome segment 6 (encoding VP6) in Pretoria, South Africa
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    Background

    Rotavirus viral protein 6 (VP6), encoded by genome segment (GS) 6, is the primary target for rotavirus diagnosis by serological and some molecular techniques. Selected full length nucleotide sequences of GS 6 of rotavirus strains from South Africa were sequenced and analysed to determine genetic diversity and variations within the circulating rotaviruses.

    Findings

    The VP6 amplicons were sequenced using the Sanger ABI 3130xl. Phylogenetic and pairwise analysis revealed that the VP6 genes of the study strains belonged to two different VP6 [I] genotypes. Five sequences were assigned genotype I1 and seven as genotype I2. Comparison of the group specific antigenic regions of the South African strains to the reference strains, shows that the South African VP6 sequences belonging to the VP6 genotype I2 were highly conserved, with only two amino acids changes at positions 239 (T›N) and 261(I›V). On the other hand, South African VP6 sequences belonging to I1 genotypes revealed several amino acid variations mostly within the antigenic region III.

    Conclusions

    Rotavirus strains with I1 and I2 genotype are predominantly circulating within the South African communities of which the later seems to be more conserved within the antigenic regions. The observed genetic variations observed within GS 6 of rotaviruses analysed in the current study are unlikely to impact negatively on the performance of the current VP6-based detection methods. Nevertheless, investigators should continually consider this diversity and adapt the primer design for the detection and characterization of the VP6 gene accordingly.

    Electronic supplementary material

    The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/2193-1801-3-179) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.