Measuring How Recombination Re-shapes the Evolutionary History of PRRSV-2: A Genome-Based Phylodynamic Analysis of the Emergence of a Novel PRRSV-2 Variant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


While the widespread and endemic circulation of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus type 2 (PRRSV-2) causes persistent economic losses to the U.S. swine industry, unusual increases of severe cases associated with the emergence of new genetic variants are a major source of concern for pork producers. Between 2020 and 2021, such an event occurred across pig production sites in the Midwestern U.S. The emerging viral clade is referred to as the novel sub-lineage 1C (L1C) 1-4-4 variant. This genetic classification is based on the open reading frame 5 (ORF5) gene. However, although whole genome sequence (WGS) suggested that this variant represented the emergence of a new strain, the true evolutionary history of this variant remains unclear. To better elucidate the variant's evolutionary history, we conducted a recombination detection analysis, time-scaled phylogenetic estimation, and discrete trait analysis on a set of L1C-1-4-4 WGSs (n = 19) alongside other publicly published WGSs (n = 232) collected over a 26-year period (1995–2021). Results from various methodologies consistently suggest that the novel L1C variant was a descendant of a recombinant ancestor characterized by recombination at the ORF1a gene between two segments that would be otherwise classified as L1C and L1A in the ORF5 gene. Based on analysis of different WGS fragments, the L1C-1-4-4 variant descended from an ancestor that existed around late 2018 to early 2019, with relatively high substitution rates in the proximal ORF1a as well as ORF5 regions. Two viruses from 2018 were found to be the closest relatives to the 2020-21 outbreak strain but had different recombination profiles, suggesting that these viruses were not direct ancestors. We also assessed the overall frequency of putative recombination amongst ORF5 and other parts of the genome and found that recombination events which leave detectable numbers of descendants are not common. However, the rapid spread and high virulence of the L1C-1-4-4 recombinant variant demonstrates that inter-sub-lineage recombination occasionally found amongst the U.S. PRRSV-2 might be an evolutionary mechanisms that contributed to this emergence. More generally, recombination amongst PRRSV-2 accelerates genetic change and increases the chance of the emergence of high fitness variants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number846904
JournalFrontiers in Veterinary Science
StatePublished - Mar 25 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding was provided by the joint NIFA-NSF-NIH Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease award 2019-67015-29918. This work was also supported by the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine Signature Programs, Grant Number MIN-62-133. NP was supported by the Royal Thai Government Scholarship. This project was partially funded by the University of Minnesota Swine Disease Eradication Center (SDEC) and the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) as the funding agency for MSHMP.

Funding Information:
Authors would like to thank the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, the Morrison Swine Health Monitoring Project (MSHMP) participating pig production systems and swine practitioners sharing samples, sequences and providing farm specific information. We would also like to thank (list the EEID team here that are not part of this manuscript) for constructive discussions related to this analysis.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Pamornchainavakul, Kikuti, Paploski, Makau, Rovira, Corzo and VanderWaal.


  • epidemics
  • porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus 2
  • variant emergence
  • viral recombination
  • whole genome sequencing

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


Dive into the research topics of 'Measuring How Recombination Re-shapes the Evolutionary History of PRRSV-2: A Genome-Based Phylodynamic Analysis of the Emergence of a Novel PRRSV-2 Variant'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this