Nine infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) strains belonging to the GI-7 lineage were isolated between 2009 and 2017 in China. Phylogenetic analysis and comparisons of full-length sequences of the S1 gene suggested that the GI-7 lineage should be further classified as Taiwan (TW)-I and TW-II sublineages, which correspond to the previous TW-I and TW-II genotypes. The nine IBV strains were clustered in the TW-II sublineage. Further investigation revealed that viruses in the TW-I and TW-II were not only genetically but also antigenically different. Moreover, the TW-II sublineage contained various clades and recombinants. A recombinant was found to originate from recombination events between field strains (TW-II ck/CH/LJL/090608- and GI-19 ck/ CH/LDL/091022-like viruses) in which the recombination in the S1 subunit coding sequences had led to changes in antigenicity of the viruses. A more in-depth investigation demonstrated that TW-II viruses appear to have undergone a significant evolution following introduction in mainland China, which resulted in the viruses diverging into different clades. The viruses between the different clades in TW-II sublineage exhibited a significant change in genetic and antigenic characteristics. In addition, the five TW-II viruses selected on the basis of the results of S1 nucleotide sequence phylogenetic trees showed different pathogenicity to specific-pathogen-free chickens, although they could induce nephritis in the infected chickens and thus were identified as nephropathogenic strains.

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