Variability of gB and gH genes of human herpesvirus-6 among clinical specimens

J Med Virol. 2008 Jul;80(7):1211-21. doi: 10.1002/jmv.21205.


The isolates of human herpesvirus-6 (HHV-6), a betaherpesvirus closely related to human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), are classified as either variants A (HHV-6A) or B (HHV-6B) but their intravariant variability has not been studied extensively so far. The full-length genes of envelope glycoproteins gB and gH from 40 distinct HHV-6-DNA-positive specimens and 11 laboratory strains were amplified using PCR, and their nucleotide sequence determined. Nucleotide divergences were observed at 156 (6.2%) and 98 (4.7%) positions in the case of gB and gH genes respectively. Phylogenetic analysis, including reference strain sequences, confirmed the unambiguous distinction between HHV-6A and HHV-6B for both genes. In the case of HHV-6B isolates, two subgroups of gB gene (designated as gB-B1 and gB-B2) and two subgroups of gH gene (gH-B1 and gH-B2) were identified but the phylogenetic trees of both genes were not fully congruent with each other. The analysis of gB and gH protein sequences showed that 26 and 39 critical amino acid changes respectively permitted the unambiguous distinction between HHV-6A and HHV-6B. Among HHV-6B isolates, gB and gH gene subgroups were characterized by specific amino acid signatures made of six, and two residues respectively. The linkage unbalance between amino acid signatures as well as the distribution of crucial nucleotide changes strongly suggested the occurrence of intravariant recombination within gB gene among HHV-6B isolates. These results indicate that, as in the case of HCMV, homologous recombination may contribute to the genetic variability of HHV-6.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Base Sequence
  • Genes, Viral*
  • Herpesvirus 6, Human / classification
  • Herpesvirus 6, Human / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Roseolovirus Infections / virology
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / genetics*


  • Viral Envelope Proteins
  • glycoprotein B, human herpesvirus-6