Murine hepatitis virus (strain A59), (MHV-A59) is a coronavirus that buds into pre-Golgi compartments and then exploits the exocytic pathway of the host cell to reach the exterior. The fibroblastic cells in which replication of this virus is usually studied have only a constitutive exocytic pathway that the virus uses. MHV-A59 also infects, albeit inefficiently, AtT20 cells, murine pituitary tumor cells with a regulated as well as a constitutive exocytic pathway. Here we examine AtT20 cells at early times after the infection, when the Golgi apparatus retains its morphological and biochemical integrity. We observe that progeny coronavirus and secretory protein destined for the secretory granules of the regulated exocytic pathway traverse the same Golgi stacks and accumulate in the trans-Golgi network. Their pathways diverge at this site, the condensed secretory proteins including the ACTH going to the secretory granules and the coronavirus to post-Golgi transport vesicles devoid of ACTH. On very rare occasions there is missorting such that aggregates of condensed secretory proteins and viruses occur together in post-Golgi vesicles. We conclude that the constitutive and regulated exocytic pathways, identified respectively by the progeny virions and the secretory protein ACTH, diverge at the exit from the trans-Golgi network.

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