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Virol J. 2005 Feb 10;2:5.

The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)-coronavirus 3a protein may function as a modulator of the trafficking properties of the spike protein.

Author information

1
Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, 61 Biopolis Drive, Proteos, 138673 Singapore. mcbtanyj@imcb.a-star.edu.sg

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

A recent publication reported that a tyrosine-dependent sorting signal, present in cytoplasmic tail of the spike protein of most coronaviruses, mediates the intracellular retention of the spike protein. This motif is missing from the spike protein of the severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus (SARS-CoV), resulting in high level of surface expression of the spike protein when it is expressed on its own in vitro.

PRESENTATION OF THE HYPOTHESIS:

It has been shown that the severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus genome contains open reading frames that encode for proteins with no homologue in other coronaviruses. One of them is the 3a protein, which is expressed during infection in vitro and in vivo. The 3a protein, which contains a tyrosine-dependent sorting signal in its cytoplasmic domain, is expressed on the cell surface and can undergo internalization. In addition, 3a can bind to the spike protein and through this interaction, it may be able to cause the spike protein to become internalized, resulting in a decrease in its surface expression.

TESTING THE HYPOTHESIS:

The effects of 3a on the internalization of cell surface spike protein can be examined biochemically and the significance of the interplay between these two viral proteins during viral infection can be studied using reverse genetics methodology.

IMPLICATION OF THE HYPOTHESIS:

If this hypothesis is proven, it will indicate that the severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus modulates the surface expression of the spike protein via a different mechanism from other coronaviruses. The interaction between 3a and S, which are expressed from separate subgenomic RNA, would be important for controlling the trafficking properties of S. The cell surface expression of S in infected cells significantly impacts viral assembly, viral spread and viral pathogenesis. Modulation by this unique pathway could confer certain advantages during the replication of the severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus.

PMID:
15703085
PMCID:
PMC549520
DOI:
10.1186/1743-422X-2-5
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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