Coronaviruses are a family of enveloped, single-stranded, positive-strand RNA viruses classified within the Nidovirales order. This coronavirus family consists of pathogens of many animal species and of humans, including the recently isolated severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV). This review is divided into two main parts; the first concerns the animal coronaviruses and their pathogenesis, with an emphasis on the functions of individual viral genes, and the second discusses the newly described human emerging pathogen, SARS-CoV. The coronavirus part covers (i) a description of a group of coronaviruses and the diseases they cause, including the prototype coronavirus, murine hepatitis virus, which is one of the recognized animal models for multiple sclerosis, as well as viruses of veterinary importance that infect the pig, chicken, and cat and a summary of the human viruses; (ii) a short summary of the replication cycle of coronaviruses in cell culture; (iii) the development and application of reverse genetics systems; and (iv) the roles of individual coronavirus proteins in replication and pathogenesis. The SARS-CoV part covers the pathogenesis of SARS, the developing animal models for infection, and the progress in vaccine development and antiviral therapies. The data gathered on the animal coronaviruses continue to be helpful in understanding SARS-CoV.