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The gene encoding the membrane (M) protein of the OC43 strain of human coronavirus (HCV-OC43) was amplified by a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction of viral RNA with HCV-OC43- and bovine coronavirus (BCV)-specific primers. The nucleotide sequence of the cloned 1.5 kb fragment revealed an open reading frame (ORF) of 690 nucleotides which was identified as the M protein gene from its homology to BCV. This ORF encodes a protein of 230 amino acids with an M(r) of 26416. The gene is preceded by the motif UCCAAAC, analogous to the consensus coronavirus transcription initiation sequence. The M protein of HCV-OC43 shows features typical of all coronavirus M proteins studied: a hydrophilic, presumably external N terminus including about 10% of the protein, and a potential N-glycosylation site followed by three major hydrophobic transmembrane domains. The amino acid sequence of the M protein of HCV-OC43 has 94% identity with that of the Mebus strain of BCV, and also contains six potential O-glycosylation sites in the exposed N-terminal domain. Indeed, the glycosylation of the M protein was not inhibited in the presence of tunicamycin, which is indicative of O-glycosylation, as previously reported for BCV and murine hepatitis virus. Virions released from tunicamycin-treated cells contained the M glycoprotein but were devoid of both peplomer (S) and haemagglutinin-esterase (HE) proteins. Thus, inhibition of the N-glycosylation of the S and HE structural proteins prevented their incorporation into progeny virions, an indication that they are dispensable for virion morphogenesis, unlike the M protein.


S Mounir, P J Talbot. Sequence analysis of the membrane protein gene of human coronavirus OC43 and evidence for O-glycosylation. The Journal of general virology. 1992 Oct;73 ( Pt 10):2731-6

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PMID: 1402806

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