Coronavirus spike protein inhibits host cell translation by interaction with eIF3f

PLoS One. 2008 Jan 30;3(1):e1494. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001494.


In response to viral infection, the expression of numerous host genes, including predominantly a number of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines, is usually up-regulated at both transcriptional and translational levels. It was noted that in cells infected with coronavirus, transcription and translation of some of these genes were differentially induced. Drastic induction of their expression at the transcriptional level was observed in cells infected with coronavirus. However, induction of the same genes at the translational level was usually found to be minimal to moderate. To investigate the underlying mechanisms, yeast two-hybrid screen was carried out using SARS-CoV proteins as baits, revealing that a subunit of the eukaryotic initiation factor 3 (eIF3), eIF3f, may interact with the N-terminal region of the SARS-CoV spike (S) protein. This interaction was subsequently confirmed by co-immunoprecipitation and immunofluorescent staining. Meanwhile, parallel experiments confirmed that eIF3f could also interact with the S protein of another coronavirus, the avian coronavirus infectious bronchitis virus (IBV). These interactions led to the inhibition of translation of a reporter gene in both in vitro expression system and intact cells. Interestingly, IBV-infected cells stably expressing a Flag-tagged eIF3f showed much higher translation of IL-6 and IL-8, suggesting that the interaction between coronavirus S protein and eIF3f plays a functional role in controlling the expression of host genes, especially genes that are induced during coronavirus infection cycles. This study reveals a novel mechanism exploited by coronavirus to regulate viral pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Primers
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factor-3 / metabolism*
  • Genes, Reporter
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / genetics
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-8 / genetics
  • Interleukin-8 / metabolism
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / physiology*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Biosynthesis / physiology*
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • Two-Hybrid System Techniques
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / metabolism
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / physiology*


  • DNA Primers
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factor-3
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-8
  • MHV surface projection glycoprotein
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • Viral Envelope Proteins
  • spike glycoprotein, SARS-CoV