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J Virol ; 96(14): e0065322, 2022 Jul 27.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1938007


Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) is an avian coronavirus that causes infectious bronchitis, an acute and highly contagious respiratory disease of chickens. IBV evolution under the pressure of comprehensive and widespread vaccination requires surveillance for vaccine resistance, as well as periodic vaccine updates. Reverse genetics systems are very valuable tools in virology, as they facilitate rapid genetic manipulation of viral genomes, thereby advancing basic and applied research. We report here the construction of an infectious clone of IBV strain Beaudette as a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC). The engineered full-length IBV clone allowed the rescue of an infectious virus that was phenotypically indistinguishable from the parental virus. We used the infectious IBV clone and examined whether an enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) can be produced by the replicase gene ORF1 and autocatalytically released from the replicase polyprotein through cleavage by the main coronavirus protease. We show that IBV tolerates insertion of the EGFP ORF at the 3' end of the replicase gene, between the sequences encoding nsp13 and nsp16 (helicase, RNA exonuclease, RNA endonuclease, and RNA methyltransferase). We further show that EGFP is efficiently cleaved from the replicase polyprotein and can be localized in double-membrane vesicles along with viral RNA polymerase and double-stranded RNA, an intermediate of IBV genome replication. One of the engineered reporter EGFP viruses were genetically stable during passage in cultured cells. We demonstrate that the reporter EGFP viruses can be used to study virus replication in host cells and for antiviral drug discovery and development of diagnostic assays. IMPORTANCE Reverse genetics systems based on bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs) are the most valuable systems in coronavirus research. Here, we describe the establishment of a reverse genetics system for the avian coronavirus strain Beaudette, the most intensively studied strain. We cloned a copy of the avian coronavirus genome into a BAC vector and recovered infectious virus in permissive cells. We used the new system to construct reporter viruses that produce enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP). The EGFP coding sequence was inserted into 11 known cleavage sites of the major coronavirus protease in the replicase gene ORF1. Avian coronavirus tolerated the insertion of the EGFP coding sequence at three sites. The engineered reporter viruses replicated with parental efficiency in cultured cells and were sufficiently genetically stable. The new system facilitates functional genomics of the avian coronavirus genome but can also be used for the development of novel vaccines and anticoronaviral drugs.

Coronavirus Infections , Gammacoronavirus , Infectious bronchitis virus , Animals , Chickens/genetics , Gammacoronavirus/genetics , Infectious bronchitis virus/genetics , Peptide Hydrolases , Polyproteins , RNA, Viral/genetics