Extensive coronavirus-induced membrane rearrangements are not a determinant of pathogenicity

Positive-strand RNA (+RNA) viruses rearrange cellular membranes during replication, possibly in order to concentrate and arrange viral replication machinery for efficient viral RNA synthesis. Our previous work showed that in addition to the conserved coronavirus double membrane vesicles (DMVs), Beau-R, an apathogenic strain of avian Gammacoronavirus infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), induces regions of ER that are zippered together and tethered open-necked double membrane spherules that resemble replication organelles induced by other +RNA viruses. Here we compared structures induced by Beau-R with the pathogenic lab strain M41 to determine whether membrane rearrangements are strain dependent. Interestingly, M41 was found to have a low spherule phenotype. We then compared a panel of pathogenic, mild and attenuated IBV strains in ex vivo tracheal organ culture (TOC). Although the low spherule phenotype of M41 was conserved in TOCs, each of the other tested IBV strains produced DMVs, zippered ER and spherules. Furthermore, there was a significant correlation for the presence of DMVs with spherules, suggesting that these structures are spatially and temporally linked. Our data indicate that virus induced membrane rearrangements are fundamentally linked to the viral replicative machinery. However, coronavirus replicative apparatus clearly has the plasticity to function in different structural contexts.

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