A cDNA encoding the spike (S) protein of the neurovirulent murine coronavirus JHMV variant c1-2 was isolated and sequenced. Analysis of the cDNA revealed that the S protein consists of 1376 amino acids, as does the S protein of mouse hepatitis virus 4. We inserted the cDNA into the genome of vaccinia virus to obtain a recombinant vaccinia virus (rVV). The S protein expressed in RK13 cells infected by the rVV was shown to be electrophoretically and immunologically indistinguishable from the S protein produced in DBT cells infected with c1-2 virus. RVV infection of rats and mice induced S protein-specific antibody production detectable by immunofluorescence and neutralization. Moreover, the S protein expressed by the rVV induced syncytium formation not only in mouse DBT and L cells, which are susceptible to c1-2 virus infection, but also in rabbit RK13 cells, which are not susceptible to c1-2 virus infection. This result suggests the possibility that RK13 cells have binding sites for the c1-2 virus S protein.


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