Rotavirus VP7 is a membrane-associated protein of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). It is the product of rotavirus gene 9 which potentially encodes a protein of 326 amino acids that contains two amino terminal hydrophobic domains, h1 and h2, each preceded by an initiation codon. Comparison of the size of products derived from altered genes containing coding sequences for both h1 and h2 with those lacking the h1 sequence ('dhl' mutants), indicates that initiation takes place at M30 immediately preceding h2 (residues F32 to L48) and that h2 is cleaved, confirming the studies of others (Stirzaker, S.C., P.L. Whitfeld, D.L. Christie, A.R. Bellamy, and G.W. Both. 1987. J. Cell Biol. 105:2897-2903). Our previous work had shown that deletions in the carboxy end of h2, extending to amino acid 61 in the open reading frame, resulted in secretion of VP7. The region from amino acid number 51-61, present in wild-type VP7 but missing in the secreted mutant delta 47-61, was thus implicated to have a role in ER retention. To test this, a series of chimeric genes were constructed by fusing the first 63 codons of wild-type VP7, delta 1-14 or delta 51-61/dhl, to the mouse salivary alpha-amylase gene, a secretory protein, such that the fusion junction was located at the exact mature terminus of amylase. The chimeric proteins VP7(63)/amylase, delta 1-14(63)/amylase and delta 51-61(63)/dhl/amylase were secreted when expressed in cells and the h2 domain was cleaved when mRNA was translated in vitro. These results imply that the sequence 51-61 is necessary but not sufficient for ER retention. When a second series of VP7/amylase chimera were constructed extending the VP7 contribution to amino acid 111, the product expressed by delta 1-14(111)/amylase was not secreted whereas that of delta 47-61(111)/amylase was. Significantly, the intracellular delta 1-14(111)/amylase product exhibited an amylase enzymatic specific activity that was similar to that of the wild-type amylase product. We conclude that two regions of VP7 mediate its retention in the ER, the first lies within the sequence 51-61 and the second within the sequence 62-111, which contains the glycosylation site for VP7. Both regions are necessary for retention, though neither is sufficient alone.

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