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Like hartmaniviruses, but unlike antennaviruses and mammarenaviruses, reptarenaviruses infect snakes. Whereas some reptarenaviruses are known to cause boid inclusion body disease (BIBD) in snakes (Hetzel et al., 2013, Stenglein et al., 2012), hartmaniviruses have yet to be associated with any disease. Reptarenaviruses are notable for encoding a glycoprotein (GP) that is more similar in structure to that of Ebola virus (order Mononegavirales, family Filoviridae) than to those encoded by antennaviruses, hartmaniviruses, and mammarenaviruses. In addition, the hartmanivirus and mammarenavirus stable signal peptide (SSP), which remains associated with the GP complex, is lacking in the reptarenavirus GP complex (Koellhoffer et al., 2014).
Virions are spherical or pleomorphic in shape, 100–200 nm in dimeter, with dense lipid envelopes (Figure 1.Reptarenavirus). The virion surface layer is covered with club-shaped projections. These projections are 10 nm long, made of trimeric spike structures of two virus-encoded membrane GP subunits (GP1 and GP2), and are spaced 11–15 nm apart. Like the virions of mammarenaviruses, but unlike those of antennaviruses and hartmaniviruses, the virions of reptarenaviruses contain a Z layer under the membrane. In contrast to mammarenaviruses, no second layer exists beneath the membrane (Hetzel et al., 2013).
Figure 1.Reptarenavirus. A) Cryo-electron micrograph of University of Helsinki virus 1 (UHV-1). Courtesy of Pasi Laurinmäki and Sarah Butcher, Cryo-EM Core Facility, Biocenter Finland, University of Helsinki, Finland. B) Negative-stain electron micrograph of UHV-1. Courtesy of Inki Luoto, University of Helsinki, Finland.
Virions contain 2 ambisense single-stranded RNA segments that are encapsidated independently. The termini of the RNAs contain inverted complementary sequences encoding transcription and replication initiation signals (Hetzel et al., 2013, Hepojoki et al., 2018, Stenglein et al., 2012).
Viruses express 4 structural proteins. The most abundant structural protein in an arenavirion is nucleoprotein (NP), which encapsidates the virus genomic segments. The least abundant protein is the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (L), which mediates virus genome replication and transcription. The zinc finger matrix protein (Z) functions, as the name implies, as a matrix protein. Unlike mammarenavirus Z, reptarenavirus Z does not possess an N-terminal glycine residue typically associated with myristoylation for membrane anchoring. Instead, reptarenavirus Z has a predicted transmembrane domain located in the first 50 amino acid residues that may serve a similar role. Reptarenavirus Z also does not contain late budding motifs. Instead, these motifs are found at the C-termini of the NP protein. Glycoproteins (GP1 and GP2) are derived by post-translational cleavage from an intracellular glycoprotein precursor, GPC. Reptarenaviruses do not produce SSP, as do hartmaniviruses and mammarenaviruses, and the reptarenavirus GP complex is unique to the genus (Hetzel et al., 2013, Koellhoffer et al., 2014, Stenglein et al., 2012).
The small (S) and large (L) RNAs of reptarenaviruses encode two proteins in non-overlapping open reading frames (ORF) of opposite polarities (ambisense coding arrangement) that are separated by non-coding intergenic regions (IGRs) (Figure 2.Reptarenavirus). The S RNA encodes NP in the virus genome-complementary sequence, and virus glycoprotein precursor (GPC) in the virus genome-sense sequence. The L RNA encodes L in the virus genome-complementary sequence, and Z in the virus genome-sense sequence. The IGRs form one or more energetically stable stem-loop (hairpin) structures and function in structure-dependent transcription termination and in virion assembly and budding (Hetzel et al., 2013, Stenglein et al., 2012). In contrast to mammarenaviruses and hartmaniviruses, there is evidence that virus recombination events occur in snakes infected with reptarenaviruses (Stenglein et al., 2015).
Figure 2.Reptarenavirus. Schematic representation of the bisegmented reptarenavirus genome organization. The 5'-and 3'-ends of both segments (S and L) are complementary at their termini, likely promoting the formation of circular ribonucleoprotein complexes within the virion. GPC, glycoprotein precursor; L, RNA-dependent RNA polymerase; NP, nucleoprotein; Z, zinc finger matrix protein. Intergenic regions (IGRs), which form hairpin structures (not shown), separate open reading frames.
Antibodies against the mammarenaviruses lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) NP and Machupo virus (MACV) NP react weakly with the NP of the reptarenavirus University of Helsinki virus 1 (UHV-1). Human and rabbit anti-MACV sera also recognize UHV-1 NP (Hetzel et al., 2013). Systematic antigenicity studies for reptarenavirions have yet to be reported.
Some reptarenaviruses can cause boid inclusion body disease (BIBD) in snakes (Hetzel et al., 2013, Stenglein et al., 2012). BIBD is an infectious disease that can be acute or chronic in snakes belonging to the families Boidae and Pythonidae. In boas (Squamata: Boidae: Boa Linnaeus, 1758), the disease outcome varies; affected animals either die within weeks or months or become asymptomatic (chronic) reptarenavirus carriers. In contrast, pythons generally develop severe fatal neurological symptoms within a few weeks. Virus replication sites also differ between snakes of both families. High virus loads of reptarenaviruses may be detected in multiple tissues or excreta of boas (blood, liver, lung, tonsil, spleen, kidney, colon, trachea, brain, feces, urates, skin shed), whereas virus replication is limited to the CNS tissues in pythons (Stenglein et al., 2017). Virus immunosuppression is thought to be a significant component of the disease. However, some snakes with BIBD due to UHV-1 infection have been reported to develop anti-UHV-1 antibodies (Hetzel et al., 2013). In some cases, animals may possibly clear reptarenavirus infections without developing BIBD.
It remains unclear whether snakes are the natural host of reptarenaviruses or if snakes are infected incidentally. Thus far, reptarenaviruses have only been found in captive snakes. Likewise, although horizontal and vertical transmission of reptarenaviruses has been reported in boa constrictors, the mechanism of transmission of these viruses remains unclear. Several studies have identiﬁed multiple reptarenaviruses in the same snake, indicating that coinfections are common (Hepojoki et al., 2015, Stenglein et al., 2015, Keller et al., 2017).
In experimental settings, reptarenaviruses can infect laboratory mice, causing mild to moderate lesions (without fatality) in the liver, kidney, spleen, brain and lungs (Abba et al., 2017).
The parameters used to assign viruses to different species in the genus are:
Reptarenavirus: from the Latin repere meaning “creep” or “crawl”, a reference to the reptilian hosts of reptarenaviruses (Radoshitzky et al., 2015).
Phylogenetic relationships across the genus have been established from maximum likelihood trees generated from full or partial sequences of NP and L proteins (Figure 3.Reptarenavirus).
Figure 3.Reptarenavirus. Maximum likelihood phylogenetic trees inferred from PRANK alignments (Löytynoja and Goldman 2008) of NP (A: top) and L (B: bottom) amino acids sequences. For both alignments, the best-fit model of protein evolution (LG+G) was selected using ProtTest 3 (v. 3.4.2) (Darriba et al., 2011). Maximum likelihood trees with 1,000 bootstrap replicates were produced using RAxML (v. 8) (Stamatakis 2014). The percentage of replicate trees in which the associated taxa clustered together in the bootstrap is shown next to branch nodes (when ≥ 70%). The mid-point rooted trees were visualized using FigTree (http://tree.bio.ed.ac.uk/). For NP, sequences of 8 reptarenaviruses assigned to 5 species (red dots) and 8 unclassified reptarenaviruses (white dots) were included. For L, the phylogeny includes sequences of 8 reptarenaviruses assigned to 5 species (red dots) and 22 unclassified reptarenaviruses (white dots). In both trees, representative viruses of the genera Hartmanivirus and Mammarenavirus are also included (green and yellow dots). These phylogenetic tree and corresponding sequence alignment are available to download from the Resources page.
aurora borealis virus 1
S segment: KR870010*; L segment: KR870021*
aurora borealis virus 2
S segment: KR870018; L segment: not available
aurora borealis virus 3
S segment: not available; L segment: KX527583
aurora borealis virus 4
S segment: not available; L segment: KX527592
bis spoeter virus
S segment: not available; L segment: KX527598
boa Av DE1 (Aqrawi et al., 2015)
boa Av DE2 (Aqrawi et al., 2015)
boa Av DE3 (Aqrawi et al., 2015)
boa Av DE4 (Aqrawi et al., 2015)
corn snake reptarenavirus
S segment: KY072972; L segment: not available
gruetzi mitenand virus 1
S segment: not available; L segment: KX527593*
Hans Kompis virus 1
S segment: not available; L segment: KR870028
hipoen jatkoon virus 1
S segment: not available; L segment: MH483048
Kaltenbach virus 1
S segment: not available; L segment: KX527584
keijut pohjoismaissa virus 1
S segment: not available; L segment: MH483047
kiva uusi käärme virus 1
S segment: not available; L segment: MH483057
kuka mitä häh virus 1
S segment: not available; L segment: KX527588
mistä näitä tulee virus 1
S segment: not available; L segment: MH483087
peilihimmeli vakooja virus 1
S segment: not available; L segment: MH483056
peto jauhoksi virus 1
S segment: not available; L segment: MH483054
python Av DE1 (Aqrawi et al., 2015)
rough scale python reptarenavirus
S segment: KY072969*; L segment: not available
S segment: MH483055; L segment: not available
S segment: KX527579; L segment: not available
S segment: MH483088; L segment: not available
S segment: MH503957; L segment: not available
Stimson′s python 2 reptarenavirus
S segment: KY072971*; L segment: not available
Stimson′s python 5 reptarenavirus
S segment: KY072970*; L segment: not available
suri vanera virus 1
S segment: not available; L segment: KX527585
suri vanera virus 2
S segment: not available; L segment: KX527587
tavallinen suomalainen mies virus 1
S segment: not available; L segment: KX527595
tavallinen suomalainen mies virus 2
S segment: not available; L segment: MH483050
University of Giessen virus 4
S segment: KR870014; L segment: not available
University of Giessen virus S6-like
S segment: KX527578; L segment: not available
University of Helsinki virus 3
S segment: not available; L segment: MH503952
University of Helsinki virus 4
S segment: not available; L segment: KR870027
UPM-MY 01 virus
S segment: not available; L segment: KU198322*
UPM-MY 02 virus
S segment: not available; L segment: KU311007*
UPM-MY 03 virus
S segment: not available; L segment: KU311008*
UPM-MY 04 virus
S segment: not available; L segment: KU311009*
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