Soñora M, Moreno P, Echeverría N, Fischer S, Comas V, Fajardo A, Cristina J
The disease caused by Newcastle disease virus (NDV) is a severe threat to the poultry industry worldwide. Recently, NDV has been isolated in the Antarctic region. Detailed studies on the mode of evolution of NDV strains isolated worldwide are relevant for our understanding of the evolutionary history of NDV. For this reason, we have performed Bayesian coalescent analysis of NDV strains isolated in Antarctica to study evolutionary rates, population dynamics, and patterns of evolution. Analysis of F protein cleavage-site sequences of NDV isolates from Antarctica suggested that these strains are lentogenic. Strains isolated in Antarctica and genotype I reference strain Ulster/67 diverged from ancestors that existed around 1958. The time of the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) was established to be around 1883 for all class II viruses. A mean rate of evolution of 1.78 × 10(-3) substitutions per site per year (s/s/y) was obtained for the F gene sequences of NDV strains examined in this study. A Bayesian skyline plot indicated a decline in NDV population size in the last 25 years. The results are discussed in terms of the possible role of Antarctica in emerging or re-emerging viruses and the evolution of NDV populations worldwide.