Wild freshwater eel populations have dramatically declined in recent past decades in Europe and America, partially through the impact of several factors including the wide spread of infectious diseases. The anguillid rhabdoviruses eel virus European X (EVEX) and eel virus American (EVA) potentially play a role in this decline, even if their real contribution is still unclear. In this study, we investigate the evolutionary dynamics and genetic diversity of anguiillid rhabdoviruses by analysing sequences from the glycoprotein, nucleoprotein and phosphoprotein (P) genes of 57 viral strains collected from seven countries over 40 years using maximum-likelihood and Bayesian approaches. Phylogenetic trees from the three genes are congruent and allow two monophyletic groups, European and American, to be clearly distinguished. Results of nucleotide substitution rates per site per year indicate that the P gene is expected to evolve most rapidly. The nucleotide diversity observed is low (2-3 %) for the three genes, with a significantly higher variability within the P gene, which encodes multiple proteins from a single genomic RNA sequence, particularly a small C protein. This putative C protein is a potential molecular marker suitable for characterization of distinct genotypes within anguillid rhabdoviruses. This study provides, to our knowledge, the first molecular characterization of EVA, brings new insights to the evolutionary dynamics of two genotypes of Anguillid rhabdovirus, and is a baseline for further investigations on the tracking of its spread.
Journal of General Virology, 2014, Vol 95, p. 2390-2401