Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SCoV) accessory protein 3a is a virus structural protein. We demonstrate here that 3a protein was released efficiently in membranous structures from various cell lines expressing 3a protein. A subpopulation of the released 3a protein is associated with detergent-resistant membranes. The presence of the YxxΦ and diacidic motifs, located within the cytoplasmic tail of the 3a protein, was not required for its efficient release. Analysis of supernatant from SCoV-infected cells with sucrose gradient sedimentation and virus capture assay indicated that the 3a protein was released from infected cells in two distinct populations, as a component of SCoV particles, and in membrane structures with a lower buoyant density. These data provide new insights into the biological properties of SCoV 3a protein.
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