The coronavirus mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) directs the synthesis of viral RNA on discrete membranous complexes that are distributed throughout the cell cytoplasm. These putative replication complexes are composed of intimately associated but biochemically distinct membrane populations, each of which contains proteins processed from the replicase (gene 1) polyprotein. Specifically, one membrane population contains the gene 1 proteins p65 and p1a-22, while the other contains the gene 1 proteins p28 and helicase, as well as the structural nucleocapsid (N) protein and newly synthesized viral RNA. In this study, immunofluorescence confocal microscopy was used to define the relationship of the membrane populations comprising the putative replication complexes at different times of infection in MHV-A59-infected delayed brain tumor cells. At 5.5 h postinfection (p.i.) the membranes containing N and helicase colocalized with the membranes containing p1a-22/p65 at foci distinct from sites of M accumulation. By 8 to 12 h p.i., however, the membranes containing helicase and N had a predominantly perinuclear distribution and colocalized with M. In contrast, the p1a-22/p65-containing membranes retained a peripheral, punctate distribution at all times of infection and did not colocalize with M. By late times of infection, helicase, N, and M each also colocalized with ERGIC p53, a specific marker for the endoplasmic reticulum-Golgi-intermediate compartment. These data demonstrated that the putative replication complexes separated into component membranes that relocalized during the course of infection. These results suggest that the membrane populations within the MHV replication complex serve distinct functions both in RNA synthesis and in delivery of replication products to sites of virus assembly.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.