Norovirus (NoV) is the leading cause of viral gastroenteritis globally. Since 1996, NoV variants of a single genetic lineage, GII.4, have been associated with at least six pandemics of acute gastroenteritis and caused between 62 and 80% of all NoV outbreaks. The emergence of these novel GII.4 variants has been attributed to rapid evolution and antigenic variation in response to herd immunity; however, the contribution of recombination as a mechanism facilitating emergence is increasingly evident. In this study, we sought to examine the role that intragenotype recombination has played in the emergence of GII.4 variants. Using a genome-wide approach including 25 complete genome sequences generated as part of this study, 11 breakpoints were identified within the NoV GII.4 lineage. The breakpoints were located at three recombination hot spots: near the open reading frame 1/2 (ORF1/2) and ORF2/3 overlaps, as well as within ORF2, which encodes the viral capsid, at the junction of the shell and protruding domains. Importantly, we show that recombination contributed to the emergence of the recent pandemic GII.4 variant, New Orleans 2009, and a newly identified GII.4 variant, termed Sydney 2012. Reconstructing the evolutionary history of the GII.4 lineage reveals the widespread impact of both inter- and intragenotype recombination on the emergence of many GII.4 variants. Lastly, this study highlights the many challenges in the identification of true recombination events and proposes that guidelines be applied for identifying NoV recombinants.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Insect Science