Amino terminus of the SARS coronavirus protein 3a elicits strong, potentially protective humoral responses in infected patients

The Journal of General Virology
Xiaofen ZhongZhihong Guo


The 3a protein of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-associated coronavirus is expressed and transported to the plasma membrane in tissue cells of infected patients. Its short N-terminal ectodomain was found to elicit strong humoral responses in half of the patients who had recovered from SARS. The ectodomain-specific antibodies from the convalescent-phase plasma readily recognized and induced destruction of 3a-expressing cells in the presence of the human complement system, demonstrating their potential ability to provide immune protection by recognizing and eliminating SARS coronavirus-infected cells that express the target protein. In addition, when coupled to a carrier protein, the ectodomain peptide elicited 3a-specific antibodies in mice and rabbit at high titres. These results showed that the N terminus of the 3a protein is highly immunogenic and elicits potentially protective humoral responses in infected patients. Therefore, the short extracellular domain may be a valuable immunogen in the development of a vaccine for infectious SARS.


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