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Evolutionary link between E

Karl Salzwedel karl_salzwedel at MICRO.MICROBIO.UAB.EDU
Wed Jun 5 12:10:08 EST 1996

If it has not already come to your attention, you may want to check out the
letter to the editor in the May 17, 1996 issue of Cell, Vol. 85, 477-478 by
William R. Gallaher at the LSU Medical Center.  Bill notes that the Ebola
envelope glycoprotein amino acid sequence can be modeled to form a secondary
structure with striking similarities to the predicted structure of the Rous
Sarcoma Virus (RSV) envelope glycoprotein.  

RSV was originally isolated from tumors in chickens and also infects quail
cells.  Modern chickens are said to have evolved from the red and green jungle
fowl of asia.  Although it is extremely unlikely that a filovirus (a negative
strand RNA virus) is closely linked evolutionarily to a retrovirus (a positive
strand/reverse transcribing RNA virus), it is nonetheless interesting that the
two viruses could potentially utilize similar basic strategies of membrane
fusion and virus infection, perhaps conserved through divergent evolution.  To
suggest that this similarity could mean that the natural reservoir for Ebola
is a bird would be quite a stretch, but having browsed some of the other
suggestions posted here (e.g. Ebola a plant virus?), I thought the possiblity
would at least be worth mentioning.

Karl Salzwedel
Dept. of Microbiology
University of Alabama at Birmingham

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