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J Virol. 2005 Sep;79(17):11335-42.

A severe acute respiratory syndrome-associated coronavirus-specific protein enhances virulence of an attenuated murine coronavirus.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Iowa, Medical Laboratories 2042, Iowa City, 52242, USA.


Most animal species that can be infected with the severe acute respiratory syndrome-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) do not reproducibly develop clinical disease, hindering studies of pathogenesis. To develop an alternative system for the study of SARS-CoV, we introduced individual SARS-CoV genes (open reading frames [ORFs]) into the genome of an attenuated murine coronavirus. One protein, the product of SARS-CoV ORF6, converted a sublethal infection to a uniformly lethal encephalitis and enhanced virus growth in tissue culture cells, indicating that SARS-CoV proteins function in the context of a heterologous coronavirus infection. Furthermore, these results suggest that the attenuated murine coronavirus lacks a virulence gene residing in SARS-CoV. Recombinant murine coronaviruses cause a reproducible and well-characterized clinical disease, offer virtually no risk to laboratory personnel, and should be useful for elucidating the role of SARS-CoV nonstructural proteins in viral replication and pathogenesis.

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