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J Virol. 2006 Feb;80(3):1302-10.

Important role for the transmembrane domain of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus spike protein during entry.

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Department of Medical Microbiology, E4-P, Leiden University Medical Center, P.O. Box 9600, 2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands.


The spike protein (S) of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) is responsible for receptor binding and membrane fusion. It contains a highly conserved transmembrane domain that consists of three parts: an N-terminal tryptophan-rich domain, a central domain, and a cysteine-rich C-terminal domain. The cytoplasmic tail of S has previously been shown to be required for assembly. Here, the roles of the transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains of S in the infectivity and membrane fusion activity of SARS-CoV have been studied. SARS-CoV S-pseudotyped retrovirus (SARSpp) was used to measure S-mediated infectivity. In addition, the cell-cell fusion activity of S was monitored by a Renilla luciferase-based cell-cell fusion assay. S(VSV-Cyt), an S chimera with a cytoplasmic tail derived from vesicular stomatitis virus G protein (VSV-G), and S(MHV-TMDCyt), an S chimera with the cytoplasmic and transmembrane domains of mouse hepatitis virus, displayed wild-type-like activity in both assays. S(VSV-TMDCyt), a chimera with the cytoplasmic and transmembrane domains of VSV-G, was impaired in the SARSpp and cell-cell fusion assays, showing 3 to 25% activity compared to the wild type, depending on the assay and the cells used. Examination of the oligomeric state of the chimeric S proteins in SARSpp revealed that S(VSV-TMDCyt) trimers were less stable than wild-type S trimers, possibly explaining the lowered fusogenicity and infectivity.

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