BACKGROUNDThe reovirus M1 genome segment encodes the mu2 protein, a structurally minor component of the viral core, which has been identified as a transcriptase cofactor, nucleoside and RNA triphosphatase, and microtubule-binding protein. The mu2 protein is the most poorly understood of the reovirus structural proteins. Genome segment sequences have been reported for 9 of the 10 genome segments for the 3 prototypic reoviruses type 1 Lang (T1L), type 2 Jones (T2J), and type 3 Dearing (T3D), but the M1 genome segment sequences for only T1L and T3D have been previously reported. For this study, we determined the M1 nucleotide and deduced mu2 amino acid sequences for T2J, nine other reovirus field isolates, and various T3D plaque-isolated clones from different laboratories.RESULTSDetermination of the T2J M1 sequence completes the analysis of all ten genome segments of that prototype. The T2J M1 sequence contained a 1 base pair deletion in the 3' non-translated region, compared to the T1L and T3D M1 sequences. The T2J M1 gene showed approximately 80% nucleotide homology, and the encoded mu 2 protein showed approximately 71% amino acid identity, with the T1L and T3D M1 and mu2 sequences, respectively, making the T2J M1 gene and mu2 proteins amongst the most divergent of all reovirus genes and proteins. Comparisons of these newly determined M1 and mu2 sequences with newly determined M1 and mu2 sequences from nine additional field isolates and a variety of laboratory T3D clones identified conserved features and/or regions that provide clues about mu2 structure and function.CONCLUSIONSThe findings suggest a model for the domain organization of mu2 and provide further evidence for a role of mu2 in viral RNA synthesis. The new sequences were also used to explore the basis for M1/mu2-determined differences in the morphology of viral factories in infected cells. The findings confirm the key role of Ser/Pro208 as a prevalent determinant of differences in factory morphology among reovirus isolates and trace the divergence of this residue and its associated phenotype among the different laboratory-specific clones of type 3 Dearing.