The S protein of bovine coronavirus (BCV) has been isolated from the viral membrane and purified by gradient centrifugation. Purified S protein was identified as a viral hemagglutinin. Inactivation of the cellular receptors by sialate 9-O-acetylesterase and generation of receptors by sialylation of erythrocytes with N-acetyl-9-O-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5,9Ac2) indicate that S protein recognizes 9-O-acetylated sialic acid as a receptor determinant as has been shown previously for intact virions. The second glycoprotein of BCV, HE, which has been thought previously to be responsible for the hemagglutinating activity of BCV, is a less efficient hemagglutinin; it agglutinates mouse and rat erythrocytes, but in contrast to S protein, it is unable to agglutinate chicken erythrocytes, which contain a lower level of Neu5,9Ac2 on their surface. S protein is proposed to be responsible for the primary attachment of virus to cell surface. S protein is proposed to be responsible for the primary attachement of virus to cell surface receptors. The potential of S protein as a probe for the detection of Neu5,9Ac2-containing glycoconjugates is demonstrated
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