The targeted RNA recombination was attempted to substitute the membrane (M) protein gene and part of the nucleocapsid (N) protein gene of mouse hepatitis virus with the corresponding sequences from bovine coronavirus. Using a defective interfering (DI) RNA-like cDNA construct derived from pMH54, 690 nucleotides representing the entire M gene and the 5' most 915 nucleotides of the N gene of the mouse hepatitis virus Albany 4 mutant were attempted to be replaced. Upon infection of cells with Albany 4 followed by transfection with synthetic RNA transcribed from the DI-like cDNA construct, recombinant mouse hepatitis viruses as the large plaque forming phenotype were isolated by plaque assays at the non-permissive temperature of 391 degrees C. By RT-PCR and sequencing, those large plaque phenotypes were confirmed to have contained the thermostable phenotype marker derived from the transfected RNA, demonstrating that recombination occurred between the Albany 4 genomic RNA and the in vitro RNA transcripts. Further analysis of the recombinant viruses indicated that there combination had taken place within the region of 222 nucleotides between positions 916 and 1,137 of the N gene. This is the region immediately downstream of the replacement sequence and the start of the temperature resistant phenotype marker. The results suggest that the M and part of the N genes of bovine coronavirus may not be able to complement the function of those of mouse hepatitis virus. This study redirects our current approach of utilizing the MHV targeted RNA recombination as a means to study bovine coronavirus genetics towards the construction of an infectious cDNA clone.
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