The southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) is a threatened marine sentinel. During postmortem investigations of stranded sea otters from 2004 to 2013 in California, US, papillomas were detected in the oral cavity of at least seven otters via necropsy and histopathology. Next-generation sequencing of viral particles purified from a single papilloma revealed a novel papillomavirus, Enhydra lutris papillomavirus 1 (ElPV-1). The genome of ElPV-1 was obtained, representing the first fully sequenced viral genome from southern sea otters. Phylogenetic analysis of the entire L1 gene, as well as a concatenated protein identities plot of all papillomaviral genes revealed that ElPV-1 is a λ-papillomavirus, related to a raccoon papillomavirus (Procyon lotor papillomavirus type 1) and a canine oral papillomavirus. Immunohistochemical staining, using a cross-reactive bovine papillomavirus antibody, suggested that ElPV-1 is present in intranuclear inclusions and intracytoplasmic keratin granules. Virus-infected cells were scattered throughout the stratum granulosum and stratum spinosum of the gingival and buccal papillomas. Using ElPV-1–specific PCR, we confirmed viral DNA in oral papillomas from all seven stranded sea otters, with identical L1 sequences. This virus is associated with the development of oral papillomatosis in southern sea otters.
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