The sexually transmitted insect virus Helicoverpa zea nudivirus 2 (HzNV-2) was determined to have a circular double-stranded DNA genome of 231,621 bp coding for an estimated 113 open reading frames (ORFs). HzNV-2 is most closely related to the nudiviruses, a sister group of the insect baculoviruses. Several putative ORFs that share homology with the baculovirus core genes were identified in the viral genome. However, HzNV-2 lacks several key genetic features of baculoviruses including the late transcriptional regulation factor, LEF-1 and the palindromic hrs, which serve as origins of replication. The HzNV-2 genome was found to code for three ORFs that had significant sequence homology to cellular genes which are not generally found in viral genomes. These included a presumed juvenile hormone esterase gene, a gene coding for a putative zinc-dependent matrix metalloprotease, and a major facilitator superfamily protein gene; all of which are believed to play a role in the cellular proliferation and the tissue hypertrophy observed in the malformation of reproductive organs observed in HzNV-2 infected corn earworm moths, Helicoverpa zea.
Keywords: Helicoverpa zea; HzNV-1; HzNV-2; baculovirus; corn earworm; juvenile hormone esterase; nudivirus; sexually transmitted virus; sterile insects; virus genome.