We identified novel linear epitopes on the infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) spike S2 region. The conformational structure of the IBV spike protein was predicted from a homologous protein, human coronavirus NL63 spike. Although the obtained structure was incomplete, most of the IBV spike protein structure was predicted; the N-terminus of the S1 region could not be predicted due to its variability. In the model, the region located in the proximity of the fusion peptide appeared to be well conserved, and we evaluated the antigenicity of these domains, which are involved in the membrane fusion machinery. Western blotting revealed that IBV TM86 spike residues 686–723 were antigenic. Epitope mapping analysis using synthesized peptides revealed that IBV TM86 spike 669–685 (SNFSTGAFNISLLLTPP), 686–697 (SNPRGRSFIEDL), and 692–703 (SFIEDLLFTSVE) residues were major linear epitopes; two identified epitopes (686–697 and 692–703) were covered by the fusion peptide, and the other epitope (669–685) was adjacent to the fusion peptide. Although the identified epitopes are identically located as the neutralizing epitope in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, the recombinant protein that includes those epitopes could not elicit neutralizing antibodies against IBV. This is the first report describing IBV spike S2 epitopes located in the proximity of the fusion peptide, and it is suggested that the spike fusion machinery of IBV may differ from that of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or, alternatively, IBV may have another mechanism to penetrate the cell membrane.
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Vol. 62 • No. 2