Molecular biology and evolution of filoviruses

Summary

The family Filoviridae contains extremely pathogenic human viruses causing a fulminating, febrile hemorrhagic disease. Filoviruses are enveloped, filamentous particles with a nonsegmented negative-strand RNA genome showing the gene arrangement 3′-NP-VP35-VP40-GP-VP30-VP24-L-5′. Genes are flanked by highly conserved transcriptional signals and are generally separated by variable intergenic regions. They are transcribed into monocistronic polyadenylated messenger RNAs which contain relatively long 5′ and 3′ untranslated regions. Seven structural proteins are encoded by the genome of which four form the helical nucleocapsid (NP-VP35-VP30-L), two are membrane-associated (VP40-VP24), and one is a transmembrane glycoprotein (GP). Comparison of filovirus genomes with those of other nonsegmented negative-strand RNA viruses suggest comparable mechanisms of transcription and replication and a common evolutionary lineage for all these viruses. Sequence analyses of single genes, however, showed that filoviruses are more closely related to paramyxoviruses, particularly human respiratory syncytial virus. These data support the concept of the taxonomic order Mononegavirales for all nonsegmented negative-strand RNA viruses and the classification of Marburg virus, Ebola virus, and Reston virus in the family Filoviridae, separate from the families Paramyxoviridae and Rhabdoviridae.