Coronavirus RNA synthesis takes place within membrane-bound sites

Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), a gammacoronavirus, is an economically important virus to the poultry industry, as well as a significant welfare issue for chickens. As for all positive strand RNA viruses, IBV infection causes rearrangements of the host cell intracellular membranes to form replication organelles. Replication organelle formation is a highly conserved and vital step in the viral life cycle. Here, we investigate the localization of viral RNA synthesis and the link with replication organelles in host cells. We have shown that sites of viral RNA synthesis and virus-related dsRNA are associated with one another and, significantly, that they are located within a membrane-bound compartment within the cell. We have also shown that some viral RNA produced early in infection remains within these membranes throughout infection, while a proportion is trafficked to the cytoplasm. Importantly, we demonstrate conservation across all four coronavirus genera, including SARS-CoV-2. Understanding more about the replication of these viruses is imperative in order to effectively find ways to control them.

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