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A role for naturally occurring variation of the murine coronavirus spike protein in stabilizing association with the cellular receptor



A role for naturally occurring variation of the murine coronavirus spike protein in stabilizing association with the cellular receptor



Journal of Virology 71(4): 3129-3137



Murine hepatitis virus (MHV), a coronavirus, initiates infection by binding to its cellular receptor (MHVR) via spike (S) proteins projecting from the virion membrane. The structures of these S proteins vary considerably among MHV strains, and this variation is generally considered to be important in determining the strain-specific pathologies of MHV infection, perhaps by affecting the interaction between MHV and the MHVR. To address the relationships between S variation and receptor binding, assays capable of measuring interactions between MHV and MHVR were developed. The assays made use of a novel soluble form of the MHVR, sMHVR-Ig, which comprised the virus-binding immunoglobulin-like domain of MHVR fused to the Fc portion of human immunoglobulin G1. sMHVR-Ig was stably expressed as a disulfide-linked dimer in human 293 EBNA cells and was immobilized to Sepharose-protein G via the Fc domain. The resulting Sepharose beads were used to adsorb radiolabelled MHV particles. At 4 degrees C, the beads specifically adsorbed two prototype MHV strains, MHV JHM (strain 4) and a tissue culture-adapted mutant of MHV JHM, the JHMX strain. A shift to 37 degrees C resulted in elution of JHM but not JHMX. This in vitro observation of JHM (but not JHMX) elution from its receptor at 37 degrees C was paralleled by a corresponding 37 degrees C elution of receptor-associated JHM (but not JHMX) from tissue culture cells. The basis for this difference in maintenance of receptor association was correlated with a large deletion mutation present within the JHMX S protein, as sMHVR-Ig exhibited relatively thermostable binding to vaccinia virus-expressed S proteins containing the deletion. These results indicate that naturally occurring mutations in the coronavirus S protein affect the stability of the initial interaction with the host cell and thus contribute to the likelihood of successful infection by incoming virions. These changes in virus entry features may result in coronaviruses with novel pathogenic properties.

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Accession: 008073760

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PMID: 9060676


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