Temperature-sensitive acetylesterase activity of haemagglutinin-esterase specified by respiratory bovine coronaviruses

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Numerous respiratory bovine coronaviruses (RBCV) were isolated recently from nasal swab samples and lung tissues of feedlot cattle with acute respiratory tract disease. These newly emerging RBCV isolates exhibited distinct phenotypic features that differentiated them from enteropathogenic bovine coronaviruses (EBCV). The RBCV strains had a receptor-destroying enzyme function mediated by acetylesterase (AE) activity of the haemagglutinin-esterase (HE) glycoprotein. The HE genes of wild-type EBCV strain LY138 and RBCV strains OK-0514 (OK) and LSU-94LSS-051 (LSU) were cloned, sequenced and transiently expressed in COS-7 cells. The enzymic properties of HE proteins in COS-7 cellular extracts and in purified virus preparations were assayed at room temperature, 37°C and 39°C by two different assays. One assay used ρ-nitrophenyl acetate (PNPA) as substrate and detected serine-esterase activity; the second assay monitored AE function with bovine submaxillary mucin (BSM) as substrate. The PNPA tests confirmed that HE proteins of EBCV and RBCV were functionally expressed in transfected COS-7 cells. Time-dependent determination of the AE activity of purified RBCV OK and LSU particles showed lower AE activity at 39°C than at 37°C, whereas the purified EBCV LY particles retained full AE activity at both 37°C and 39°C. Transiently expressed RBCV HE exhibited a marked reduction of AE activity after 40 min of assay time at 37°C. In contrast, the AE activity of the transiently expressed EBCV HE remained stable beyond 40 min. The deduced amino-acid sequences of the HE proteins specified by the RBCV strains OK and LSU contained specific amino-acid changes in comparison with the EBCV LY strain, which may be responsible for the observed enzymic differences. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that RBCV strains have evolved to selectively replicate in respiratory tissues and that HE may play a role in this tissue tropism.

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Journal of Medical Microbiology

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