Dynamics of coronavirus replication-transcription complexes.

Journal of Virology 84(4):2134 (2010) PMID 20007278 PMCID PMC2812403

Coronaviruses induce in infected cells the formation of double-membrane vesicles (DMVs) in which the replication-transcription complexes (RTCs) are anchored. To study the dynamics of these coronavirus replicative structures, we generated recombinant murine hepatitis coronaviruses that express tagged versions of the nonstructural protein nsp2. We demonstrated by using immunofluorescence assays and electron microscopy that this protein is recruited to the DMV-anchored RTCs, for which its C terminus is essential. Live-cell imaging of infected cells demonstrated that small nsp2-positive structures move through the cytoplasm in a microtubule-dependent manner. In contrast, large fluorescent structures are rather immobile. Microtubule-mediated transport of DMVs, however, is not required for efficient replication. Biochemical analyses indicated that the nsp2 protein is associated with the cytoplasmic side of the DMVs. Yet, no recovery of fluorescence was observed when (part of) the nsp2-positive foci were bleached. This result was confirmed by the observation that preexisting RTCs did not exchange fluorescence after fusion of cells expressing either a green or a red fluorescent nsp2. Apparently, nsp2, once recruited to the RTCs, is not exchanged with nsp2 present in the cytoplasm or at other DMVs. Our data show a remarkable resemblance to results obtained recently by others with hepatitis C virus. The observations point to intriguing and as yet unrecognized similarities between the RTC dynamics of different plus-strand RNA viruses.

DOI: 10.1128/JVI.01716-09