Coronaviruses (CoVs) have a remarkable potential to change tropism. This is particularly illustrated over the last 15 years by the emergence of two zoonotic CoVs, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)- and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)-CoV. Due to their inherent genetic variability, it is inevitable that new cross-species transmission events of these enveloped, positive-stranded RNA viruses will occur. Research into these medical and veterinary important pathogens—sparked by the SARS and MERS outbreaks—revealed important principles of inter- and intraspecies tropism changes. The primary determinant of CoV tropism is the viral spike (S) entry protein. Trimers of the S glycoproteins on the virion surface accommodate binding to a cell surface receptor and fusion of the viral and cellular membrane. Recently, high-resolution structures of two CoV S proteins have been elucidated by single-particle cryo-electron microscopy. Using this new structural insight, we review the changes in the S protein that relate to changes in virus tropism. Different concepts underlie these tropism changes at the cellular, tissue, and host species level, including the promiscuity or adaptability of S proteins to orthologous receptors, alterations in the proteolytic cleavage activation as well as changes in the S protein metastability. A thorough understanding of the key role of the S protein in CoV entry is critical to further our understanding of virus cross-species transmission and pathogenesis and for development of intervention strategies
Porcine enteric coronaviruses (CoVs) cause severe disease in the porcine herds worldwide, leading to important economic losses. Despite the knowledge of these viruses since the 1970s, vaccination strategies have not been implemented, leading to continuous re-emergence of novel virulent strains. Live attenuated vaccines historically have been the most efficient. We consider that the new trend is the development of recombinant vaccines by using reverse genetics systems to engineer attenuated viruses, which could be used as effective and safe modified live vaccine candidates. To this end, host cell signaling pathways influencing porcine CoV virulence should be identified. Similarly, the identity of viral proteins involved in the modulation of host cell pathways influencing CoV pathogenesis should be analyzed. With this information, and using reverse genetics systems, it is possible to design viruses with modifications in the viral proteins acting as virulence factors, which may lead to attenuated viruses and, therefore, vaccine candidates. In addition, novel antiviral drugs may be developed once the host cell pathways and the molecular mechanism affecting porcine CoV replication and virulence are known. This review is focused in the host cell responses to enteric porcine CoV infection and the viral proteins involved in pathogenesis.
Coronavirus (CoV) nonstructural protein 14 (nsp14) is a 60-kDa protein encoded by the replicase gene that is part of the replication-transcription complex. It is a bifunctional enzyme bearing 3′-to-5′ exoribonuclease (ExoN) and guanine-N7-methyltransferase (N7-MTase) activities. ExoN hydrolyzes single-stranded RNAs and double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) and is part of a proofreading system responsible for the high fidelity of CoV replication. nsp14 N7-MTase activity is required for viral mRNA cap synthesis and prevents the recognition of viral mRNAs as “non-self” by the host cell. In this work, a set of point mutants affecting different motifs within the ExoN domain of nsp14 was generated, using transmissible gastroenteritis virus as a model of Alphacoronavirus. Mutants lacking ExoN activity were nonviable despite being competent in both viral RNA and protein synthesis. A specific mutation within zinc finger 1 (ZF-C) led to production of a viable virus with growth and viral RNA synthesis kinetics similar to that of the parental virus. Mutant recombinant transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) ZF-C (rTGEV-ZF-C) caused decreased cytopathic effect and apoptosis compared with the wild-type virus and reduced levels of dsRNA accumulation at late times postinfection. Consequently, the mutant triggered a reduced antiviral response, which was confirmed by evaluating different stages of the dsRNA-induced antiviral pathway. The expression of beta interferon (IFN-β), tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and interferon-stimulated genes in cells infected with mutant rTGEV-ZF-C was reduced compared to the levels seen with the parental virus. Overall, our data revealed a potential role for CoV nsp14 in modulation of the innate immune response.