Screening of feral and wood pigeons for viruses harbouring a conserved mobile viral element: characterization of novel Astroviruses and Picornaviruses

PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e25964. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025964. Epub 2011 Oct 17.


A highly conserved RNA-motif of yet unknown function, called stem-loop-2-like motif (s2m), has been identified in the 3' end of the genomes of viruses belonging to different RNA virus families which infect a broad range of mammal and bird species, including Astroviridae, Picornaviridae, Coronaviridae and Caliciviridae. Since s2m is such an extremely conserved motif, it is an ideal target for screening for viruses harbouring it. In this study, we have detected and characterized novel viruses harbouring this motif in pigeons by using a s2m-specific amplification. 84% and 67% of the samples from feral pigeons and wood pigeons, respectively, were found to contain a virus harbouring s2m. Four novel viruses were identified and characterized. Two of the new viruses belong to the genus Avastrovirus in the Astroviridae family. We propose two novel species to be included in this genus, Feral pigeon astrovirus and Wood pigeon astrovirus. Two other novel viruses, Pigeon picornavirus A and Pigeon picornavirus B, belong to the Picornaviridae family, presumably to the genus Sapelovirus. Both of the novel picornaviruses harboured two adjacent s2m, called (s2m)(2), suggesting a possible increased functional effect of s2m when present in two copies.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avastrovirus / genetics
  • Columbidae / virology*
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Picornaviridae / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / analysis*
  • RNA, Viral / chemistry
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • Viruses / genetics*


  • RNA, Viral