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J Virol. 1994 October; 68(10): 6523–6534.
PMCID: PMC237073

Coronavirus M proteins accumulate in the Golgi complex beyond the site of virion budding.


The prevailing hypothesis is that the intracellular site of budding of coronaviruses is determined by the localization of its membrane protein M (previously called E1). We tested this by analyzing the site of budding of four different coronaviruses in relation to the intracellular localization of their M proteins. Mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) and infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) grown in Sac(-) cells, and feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIPV) and transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) grown in CrFK cells, all budded exclusively into smooth-walled, tubulovesicular membranes located intermediately between the rough endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi complex, identical to the so-called budding compartment previously identified for MHV. Indirect immunofluorescence staining of the infected cells showed that all four M proteins accumulated in a perinuclear region. Immunogold microscopy localized MHV M and IBV M in the budding compartment; in addition, a dense labeling in the Golgi complex occurred, MHV M predominantly in trans-Golgi cisternae and trans-Golgi reticulum and IBV M mainly in the cis and medial Golgi cisternae. The corresponding M proteins of the four viruses, when independently expressed in a recombinant vaccinia virus system, also accumulated in the perinuclear area. Quantitative pulse-chase analysis of metabolically labeled cells showed that in each case the majority of the M glycoproteins carried oligosaccharide side chains with Golgi-specific modifications within 4 h after synthesis. Immunoelectron microscopy localized recombinant MHV M and IBV M to the same membranes as the respective proteins in coronavirus-infected cells, with the same cis-trans distribution over the Golgi complex. Our results demonstrate that some of the M proteins of the four viruses are transported beyond the budding compartment and are differentially retained by intrinsic retention signals; in addition to M, other viral and/or cellular factors are probably required to determine the site of budding.

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