Arteriviruses are positive-stranded RNA viruses that infect mammals. They can cause persistent or asymptomatic infections, but also acute disease associated with a respiratory syndrome, abortion or lethal haemorrhagic fever. During the past two decades, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) and, to a lesser extent, equine arteritis virus (EAV) have attracted attention as veterinary pathogens with significant economic impact. Particularly noteworthy were the 'porcine high fever disease' outbreaks in South-East Asia and the emergence of new virulent PRRSV strains in the USA. Recently, the family was expanded with several previously unknown arteriviruses isolated from different African monkey species. At the molecular level, arteriviruses share an intriguing but distant evolutionary relationship with coronaviruses and othermembers of the order Nidovirales. Nevertheless, several of their characteristics are unique, including virion composition and structure, and the conservation of only a subset of the replicase domains encountered in nidoviruses with larger genomes. During the past 15 years, the advent of reverse genetics systems for EAV and PRRSV has changed and accelerated the structure-function analysis of arterivirus RNA and protein sequences. These systems now also facilitate studies into host immune responses and arterivirus immune evasion and pathogenesis. In this review, we have summarized recent advances in the areas of arterivirus genome expression, RNA and protein functions, virion architecture, virus-host interactions, immunity, and pathogenesis. We have also briefly reviewed the impact of these advances on disease management, the engineering of novel candidate live vaccines and the diagnosis of arterivirus infection.
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