Coronavirus replication is facilitated by a number of highly conserved viral proteins. The viruses also encode accessory genes, which are virus group specific and believed to play roles in virus replication and pathogenesis in vivo. Of the eight putative accessory proteins encoded by the severe acute respiratory distress syndrome associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV), only two-open reading frame 3a (ORF3a) and ORF7a-have been identified in virus-infected cells to date. The ORF7b protein is a putative viral accessory protein encoded on subgenomic (sg) RNA 7. The ORF7b initiation codon overlaps the ORF7a stop codon in a -1 shifted ORF. We demonstrate that the ORF7b protein is expressed in virus-infected cell lysates and from a cDNA encoding the gene T coding region, indicating that the sgRNA7 is bicistronic. The translation of ORF7b appears to be mediated by ribosome leaky scanning, and the protein has biochemical properties consistent with that of an integral membrane protein. ORF7b localizes to the Golgi compartment and is incorporated into SARS-CoV particles. We therefore conclude that the ORF7b protein is not only an accessory protein but a structural component of the SARS-CoV virion.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science