Assembly of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus RNA packaging signal into virus-like particles is nucleocapsid dependent

Journal of Virology
Ping-Kun HsiehMing-Fu Chang


The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) was recently identified as the etiology of SARS. The virus particle consists of four structural proteins: spike (S), small envelope (E), membrane (M), and nucleocapsid (N). Recognition of a specific sequence, termed the packaging signal (PS), by a virus N protein is often the first step in the assembly of viral RNA, but the molecular mechanisms involved in the assembly of SARS-CoV RNA are not clear. In this study, Vero E6 cells were cotransfected with plasmids encoding the four structural proteins of SARS-CoV. This generated virus-like particles (VLPs) of SARS-CoV that can be partially purified on a discontinuous sucrose gradient from the culture medium. The VLPs bearing all four of the structural proteins have a density of about 1.132 g/cm(3). Western blot analysis of the culture medium from transfection experiments revealed that both E and M expressed alone could be released in sedimentable particles and that E and M proteins are likely to form VLPs when they are coexpressed. To examine the assembly of the viral genomic RNA, a plasmid representing the GFP-PS580 cDNA fragment encompassing the viral genomic RNA from nucleotides 19715 to 20294 inserted into the 3' nonc...Continue Reading


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