The genome organization of porcine respiratory coronavirus (PRCV), a newly recognized agent which has a close antigenic relationship to the enteropathogenic transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV), was studied. Genomic RNA from cell-cultured PRCV (French isolate RM4) was used to produce cDNA clones covering the genomic 3′ end to the start of the spike (S) glycoprotein gene (7519 nucleotides). Six open reading frames (ORFs) were identified that allowed the translation of three coronavirus structural proteins and three putative non-structural (NS) polypeptides, homologous to TGEV ORFs designated NS3-1, NS4 and NS7. Pairwise alignment of PRCV nucleotide and amino acid sequences with sequence data available for three TGEV strains revealed a 96% overall homology. However, the genome of PRCV exhibited two important distinctive features. The first was that the S gene lacked 672 nucleotides in the 5′ region and encoded a truncated form of the S polypeptide, and secondly, the first NS ORF downstream of the S gene was predicted to be non-functional as a consequence of a double deletion. The significance of genomic deletions with respect to tissue tropism and evolution of coronaviruses is discussed.


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