Four major antigenic sites have been delineated on the spike protein (S) of the porcine enteric coronavirus transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) in previous topological studies using monoclonal antibodies (MAbs). Correlation of these sites with the physical structure of the protein was achieved by use of different approaches. Recombinant pEX plasmids directing the synthesis of various fused S polypeptides were constructed. A hybrid protein containing nine S-specific residues (363 to 371) was shown to express site C epitopes. The other sites were localized through study of the antigenic activity of fragments generated by controlled cleavage of the native protein with different endopeptidases. Two identified cleavage products of 26K and 13K, immunoreactive to site A-B- and site D-specific MAbs respectively, could be aligned on the S primary structure according to N-terminal sequence data. This led us to propose that the major neutralization domain A-B is contained in a region of approximately 200 residues with residue 506 as its N boundary. Similarly, site D epitopes should be located within a stretch of 130 residues, starting at 82 residues from the N terminus. Point mutations identified by direct RNA sequencing of neutralization-resistant mutants were consistent with the proposed location of these sites.


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