The genetic stability, replication kinetics and cytopathogenicity of recombinant avian coronaviruses with a T16A or an A26F mutation within the E protein is cell-type dependent

The envelope (E) protein of the avian coronavirus infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) is a small-membrane protein present in two forms during infection: a monomer and a pentameric ion channel. Each form has an independent role during replication; the monomer disrupts the secretory pathway, and the pentamer facilitates virion production. The presence of a T16A or A26F mutation within E exclusively generates the pentameric or monomeric form, respectively. We generated two recombinant IBVs (rIBVs) based on the apathogenic molecular clone Beau-R, containing either a T16A or A26F mutation, denoted as BeauR-T16A and BeauR-A26F. The replication and genetic stability of the rIBVs were assessed in several different cell types, including primary and continuous cells, ex vivo tracheal organ cultures (TOCs) and in ovo. Different replication profiles were observed between cell cultures of different origins. BeauR-A26F replicated to a lower level than Beau-R in Vero cells and in ovo but not in DF1, primary chicken kidney (CK) cells or TOCs. Genetic stability and cytopathic effects were found to differ depending on the cell system. The effect of the T16A and A26F mutations appear to be cell-type dependent, which, therefore, highlights the importance of cell type in the investigation of the IBV E protein.

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