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Virology. 1991 Feb;180(2):567-82.

The complete sequence (22 kilobases) of murine coronavirus gene 1 encoding the putative proteases and RNA polymerase.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Microbiology, University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles 90033.


The 5'-most gene, gene 1, of the genome of murine coronavirus, mouse hepatitis virus (MHV), is presumed to encode the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. We have determined the complete sequence of this gene of the JHM strain by cDNA cloning and sequencing. The total length of this gene is 21,798 nucleotides long, which includes two overlapping, large open reading frames. The first open reading frame, ORF 1a, is 4488 amino acids long. The second open reading frame, ORF 1b, overlaps ORF 1a for 75 nucleotides, and is 2731 amino acids long. The overlapping region may fold into a pseudoknot RNA structure, similar to the corresponding region of the RNA of avian coronavirus, infectious bronchitis virus (IBV). The in vitro transcription and translation studies of this region indicated that these two ORFs were most likely translated into one polyprotein by a ribosomal frameshifting mechanism. Thus, the predicted molecular weight of the gene 1 product is more than 800,000 Da. The sequence of ORF 1b is very similar to the corresponding ORF of IBV. In contrast, the ORF 1a of these two viruses differ in size and have a high degree of divergence. The amino acid sequence analysis suggested that ORF 1a contains several functional domains, including two hydrophobic, membrane-anchoring domains, and three cysteine-rich domains. It also contains a picornaviral 3C-like protease domain and two papain-like protease domains. The presence of these protease domains suggests that the polyprotein is most likely processed into multiple protein products. In contrast, the ORF 1b contains polymerase, helicase, and zinc-finger motifs. These sequence studies suggested that the MHV gene 1 product is involved in RNA synthesis, and that this product is processed autoproteolytically after translation. This study completes the sequence of the MHV genome, which is 31 kb long, and constitutes the largest viral RNA known.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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