Diversity of murine norovirus in wild-rodent populations: species-specific associations suggest an ancient divergence.
Smith DB., McFadden N., Blundell RJ., Meredith A., Simmonds P.
A survey of wild-rodent populations has revealed that murine norovirus (MNV) is present and diverse in wild-house mice Mus musculus. This virus is genetically similar to MNV infecting show mice and previously described variants circulating in laboratory mice. The detection of MNV in wild-mouse populations suggests that MNV infection of laboratory mice and show mice (from which laboratory mice are derived) derives from contact with or their origins from wild-mouse progenitors. The survey additionally identified frequent infection of wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) with genetically divergent variants of MNV. These viruses are distinct from previously described MNV variants, differing by 22-23 % over the complete genome sequence compared with a maximum of 13 % between M. musculus-derived strains. Comparison with other noroviruses reveals that the Apodemus MNV groups with MNV in genogroup V and shares the same overall genome organization, predicted lengths of proteins encoded by ORFs 1-3 and the existence of a conserved alternative reading frame in VP1 encoding a homologue of the MNV ORF4. Different Apodemus MNV isolates were as variable as MNV isolates and showed evidence for inter-isolate recombination. Our observation of species-specific associations of MNV variants in wild populations suggests that murine noroviruses have an ancient origin, a feature that they may share with other norovirus genogroups.