The hemagglutinin/esterase (HE), spike precursor (S) and the S1 and S2 subunits of the spike precursor protein of bovine coronavirus were expressed in Spodoptera frugiperda (Sf9) cells, and the cell-fusing activity of each recombinant glycoprotein was examined. Extensive syncytia formation was observed in cells infected with the S2 recombinant but not with the HE or S1 recombinant baculoviruses. Fusion of Sf9 cells expressing the intact S protein precursor was evident after trypsin treatment. These results demonstrate that proteolytic cleavage of the S spike precursor is required for fusion induction and that the fusion is mediated by the S2 subunit. These observations may reflect the biological role of the S2 subunit in fusion-penetration during bovine coronavirus infection.
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