The reovirus sigma 3 protein is a major outer capsid protein that may function to regulate translation within infected cells. To facilitate the understanding of sigma 3 structure and functions and the evolution of mammalian reoviruses, we sequenced cDNA copies of the S4 genes from 10 serotype 3 and 3 serotype 1 reovirus field isolates and compared these sequences with sequences of prototypic strains of the three reovirus serotypes. We found that the sigma 3 proteins are highly conserved: the two longest conserved regions contain motifs proposed to function in binding zinc and double-stranded RNA. We used the 16 viral isolates to investigate the hypothesis that structural interactions between sigma 3 and the cell attachment protein, sigma 1, constrain their evolution and to identify a determinant within sigma 3 that is in close proximity to the sigma 1 hemagglutination site.
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