Knowledge of coronavirus replication, transcription, and virus-host interaction has been recently improved by engineering of coronavirus infectious cDNAs. With the transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) genome the efficient (>40 microg per 106 cells) and stable (>20 passages) expression of the foreign genes has been shown. Knowledge of the transcription mechanism in coronaviruses has been significantly increased, making possible the fine regulation of foreign gene expression. A new family of vectors based on single coronavirus genomes, in which essential genes have been deleted, has emerged including replication-competent, propagation-deficient vectors. Vector biosafety is being increased by relocating the RNA packaging signal to the position previously occupied by deleted essential genes, to prevent the rescue of fully competent viruses that might arise from recombination events with wild-type field coronaviruses. The large cloning capacity of coronaviruses (>5 kb) and the possibility of engineering the tissue and species tropism to target expression to different organs and animal species, including humans, has increased the potential of coronaviruses as vectors for vaccine development and, possibly, gene therapy.