Coronavirus envelope (CoV E) proteins are ∼100-residue polypeptides with at least one channel-forming α-helical transmembrane (TM) domain. The extramembrane C-terminal tail contains a completely conserved proline, at the center of a predicted β-coil-β motif. This hydrophobic motif has been reported to constitute a Golgi-targeting signal or a second TM domain. However, no structural data for this or other extramembrane domains in CoV E proteins is available. Herein, we show that the E protein in the severe acute respiratory syndrome virus has only one TM domain in micelles, whereas the predicted β-coil-β motif forms a short membrane-bound α-helix connected by a disordered loop to the TM domain. However, complementary results suggest that this motif is potentially poised for conformational change or in dynamic exchange with other conformations.
Keywords: Analytical Ultracentrifugation; Coronavirus; Envelope Protein; Golgi Targeting; Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR); Protein Structure; SARS; Structural Biology; Viral Protein; Virus Assembly.