Coronavirus replicase nsp4 is critical for virus-induced membrane modifications. An nsp4 mutant (N258T) of murine hepatitis virus (MHV) has been reported to be temperature-sensitive (ts) and to alter membrane targeting. We engineered and recovered all four possible codon variants of N258T in the cloned MHV-A59 background. All mutant viruses demonstrated impaired replication compared to wildtype MHV, but no nsp4 N258T mutant virus was ts, and all variants colocalized with viral protein markers for replication complexes, but not with markers for mitochondria. This study emphasizes that complete genome sequencing may be necessary, even with directed and confirmed reverse genetic mutants.
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