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Arctic squirrel hepatitis virus (ASHV) was initially detected in the livers of animals bearing large hepatic nodules by nucleic acid hybridization with hepadnavirus probes and in plasma by cross-reactivity with antibodies to hepadnavirus surface and core antigens. The complete nucleotide sequence of the 3,302-bp-long ASHV genome was determined and compared with those of ground squirrel hepatitis virus (GSHV) and woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV); all sequences were organized into four open reading frames, designated pre-C/C, pre-S/S, pol, and X. Despite roughly equivalent variability among the three rodent hepadnaviruses (around 16% base and 19% amino acid exchanges), ASHV appeared to be more closely related to GSHV than to WHV in phylogenetic analysis. Accordingly, preliminary studies of the pathology of ASHV infection suggested that ASHV may be a less efficient oncogenic agent than WHV.

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