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J Gen Virol. 2014 Feb;95(Pt 2):393-402. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.058743-0. Epub 2013 Nov 4.

ORF7-encoded accessory protein 7a of feline infectious peritonitis virus as a counteragent against IFN-α-induced antiviral response.

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Department of Virology, Parasitology and Immunology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Salisburylaan 133, B-9820 Merelbeke, Belgium.


The type I IFN-mediated immune response is the first line of antiviral defence. Coronaviruses, like many other viruses, have evolved mechanisms to evade this innate response, ensuring their survival. Several coronavirus accessory genes play a central role in these pathways, but for feline coronaviruses this has never to our knowledge been studied. As it has been demonstrated previously that ORF7 is essential for efficient replication in vitro and virulence in vivo of feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIPV), the role of this ORF in the evasion of the IFN-α antiviral response was investigated. Deletion of ORF7 from FIPV strain 79-1146 (FIPV-Δ7) rendered the virus more susceptible to IFN-α treatment. Given that ORF7 encodes two proteins, 7a and 7b, it was further explored which of these proteins is active in this mechanism. Providing 7a protein in trans rescued the mutant FIPV-Δ7 from IFN sensitivity, which was not achieved by addition of 7b protein. Nevertheless, addition of protein 7a to FIPV-Δ3Δ7, a FIPV mutant deleted in both ORF3 and ORF7, could no longer increase the replication capacity of this mutant in the presence of IFN. These results indicate that FIPV 7a protein is a type I IFN antagonist and protects the virus from the antiviral state induced by IFN, but it needs the presence of ORF3-encoded proteins to exert its antagonistic function.

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