Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) has been described as an important etiologic agent of upper and lower respiratory tract infections, especially in young children and the elderly. Most of school-aged children might be introduced to HMPVs, and exacerbation with other viral or bacterial super-infection is common. However, our understanding of the molecular evolution of HMPVs remains limited. To address the comprehensive evolutionary dynamics of HMPVs, we report a genome-wide analysis of the eight genes (N, P, M, F, M2, SH, G, and L) using 103 complete genome sequences. Phylogenetic reconstruction revealed that the eight genes from one HMPV strain grouped into the same genetic group among the five distinct lineages (A1, A2a, A2b, B1, and B2). A few exceptions of phylogenetic incongruence might suggest past recombination events, and we detected possible recombination breakpoints in the F, SH, and G coding regions. The five genetic lineages of HMPVs shared quite remote common ancestors ranging more than 220 to 470 years of age with the most recent origins for the A2b sublineage. Purifying selection was common, but most protein genes except the F and M2-2 coding regions also appeared to experience episodic diversifying selection. Taken together, these suggest that the five lineages of HMPVs maintain their individual evolutionary dynamics and that recombination and selection forces might work on shaping the genetic diversity of HMPVs.
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