Morphogenesis of Coronavirus HCoV-NL63 in Cell Culture: A Transmission Electron Microscopic Study

The Open Infectious Diseases Journal 18 December 2008 RESEARCH ARTICLE DOI: 10.2174/1874279300802010052


NL63 (HCoV-NL63) is a recently discovered human coronavirus that causes respiratory disease in infants and young children. NL63 productively infects LLCMK2 cells and ciliated epithelial cells of human airway cell cultures. Transmission electron microscopic (TEM) studies of NL63 infected LLCMK2 cells revealed that virions are spherical, spiked, and range from 75 to 115 nm in diameter. Virus replication predominantly occurs on the rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER), both perinuclear and cytoplasmic, and the Golgi. Plasma membrane budding was occasionally observed. As virus production increased, aberrant viral forms appeared with greater frequency. Unusual inclusions were present in infected cells including tubular and laminated structures. Pleomorphic double membrane-bound vesicles (DMV), measuring roughly 140 to 210 nm in diameter, were observed. The virus was released via exocytosis and cell lysis. In summary, we report the key morphologic characteristics of NL63 infection observed by TEM analysis.

Keywords: Aberrant, coronavirus, HCoV-NL63.
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