The transmissible gastroenteritis coronavirus (TGEV) infects the epithelial cells of the intestinal tract of pigs, resulting in a high mortality rate in piglets. This study shows the interaction of TGEV with a porcine epithelial cell line. To determine the site of viral entry, LLC-PK1 cells were grown on permeable filter supports and infected with TGEV from the apical or basolateral side. Initially after plating, the virus was found to enter the cells from both sides. During further development of cell polarity, however, the entry became restricted to the apical membrane. Viral entry could be blocked by a monoclonal antibody to the viral receptor aminopeptidase N. Confocal laser scanning microscopy showed that this receptor protein was present at both the apical and basolateral plasma membrane domains just after plating of the cells but that it became restricted to the apical plasma membrane during culture. To establish the site of viral release, the viral content of the apical and basolateral media of apically infected LLC-PK1 cells was measured by determining the amount of radioactively labelled viral proteins and infectious viral particles. We found that TGEV was preferentially released from the apical plasma membrane. This conclusion was confirmed by electron microscopy, which demonstrated that newly synthesized viral particles attached to the apical membrane. The results support the idea that the rapid lateral spread of TGEV infection over the intestinal epithelia occurs by the preferential release of virus from infected epithelial cells into the gut lumen followed by efficient infection of nearby cells through the apical domain
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