Fusion-defective mutants of mouse hepatitis virus A59 contain a mutation in the spike protein cleavage signal
Infection of primary mouse glial cell cultures with mouse hepatitis virus strain A59 results in a productive, persistent infection, but without any obvious cytopathic effect. Mutant viruses isolated from infected glial cultures 16 to 18 weeks postinfection replicate with kinetics similar to those of wild-type virus but produce small plaques on fibroblasts and cause only minimal levels of cell-to-cell fusion under conditions in which wild type causes nearly complete cell fusion. However, since extensive fusion is present in mutant-infected cells at late times postinfection, the defect is actually a delay in kinetics rather than an absolute block in activity. Addition of trypsin to mutant-infected fibroblast cultures enhanced cell fusion a small (two- to fivefold) but significant degree, indicating that the defect could be due to a lack of cleavage of the viral spike (fusion) protein. Sequencing of portions of the spike genes of six fusion-defective mutants revealed that all contained the same single nucleotide mutation resulting in a substitution of aspartic acid for histidine in the spike cleavage signal. Mutant virions contained only the 180-kDa form of spike protein, suggesting that this mutation prevented the normal proteolytic cleavage of the 180-kDa protein into the 90-kDa subunits. Examination of revertants of the mutants supports this hypothesis. Acquisition of fusion competence correlates with the replacement of the negatively charged aspartic acid with either the wild-type histidine or a nonpolar amino acid and the restoration of spike protein cleavage. These data confirm and extend previous reports concluding cleavage of S is required for efficient cell-cell fusion by mouse hepatitis virus but not for virus-cell fusion (infectivity).
Journal of virology
Gombold, James L.; Hingley, Susan T.; and Weiss, Susan R., "Fusion-defective mutants of mouse hepatitis virus A59 contain a mutation in the spike protein cleavage signal" (1993). PCOM Scholarly Papers. 411.