Coronaviruses (CoVs) assemble by budding into the lumen of the early Golgi complex prior to exocytosis. The small CoV envelope (E) protein plays roles in assembly, virion release, and pathogenesis. CoV E has a single hydrophobic domain (HD), is targeted to Golgi complex membranes, and has cation channel activity in vitro. However, the precise functions of the CoV E protein during infection are still enigmatic. Structural data for the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-CoV E protein suggest that it assembles into a homopentamer. Specific residues in the HD regulate the ion-conducting pore formed by SARS-CoV E in artificial bilayers and the pathogenicity of the virus during infection. The E protein from the avian infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) has dramatic effects on the secretory system which require residues in the HD. Here, we use the known structural data from SARS-CoV E to infer the residues important for ion channel activity and the oligomerization of IBV E. We present biochemical data for the formation of two distinct oligomeric pools of IBV E in transfected and infected cells and the residues required for their formation. A high-order oligomer of IBV E is required for the production of virus-like particles (VLPs), implicating this form of the protein in virion assembly. Additionally, disruption of the secretory pathway by IBV E correlates with a form that is likely monomeric, suggesting that the effects on the secretory pathway are independent of E ion channel activity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science