Macropinocytosis is exploited by many pathogens for entry into cells. Coronaviruses (CoVs) such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) CoV and Middle East respiratory syndrome CoV are important human pathogens; however, macropinocytosis during CoV infection has not been investigated. We demonstrate that the CoVs SARS CoV and murine hepatitis virus (MHV) induce macropinocytosis, which occurs late during infection, is continuous, and is not associated with virus entry. MHV-induced macropinocytosis results in vesicle internalization, as well as extended filopodia capable of fusing with distant cells. MHV-induced macropinocytosis requires fusogenic spike protein on the cell surface and is dependent on epidermal growth factor receptor activation. Inhibition of macropinocytosis reduces supernatant viral titers and syncytia but not intracellular virus titers. These results indicate that macropinocytosis likely facilitates CoV infection through enhanced cell-to-cell spreading. Our studies are the first to demonstrate virus use of macropinocytosis for a role other than entry and suggest a much broader potential exploitation of macropinocytosis in virus replication and host interactions. Importance: Coronaviruses (CoVs), including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) CoV and Middle East respiratory syndrome CoV, are critical emerging human pathogens. Macropinocytosis is induced by many pathogens to enter host cells, but other functions for macropinocytosis in virus replication are unknown. In this work, we show that CoVs induce a macropinocytosis late in infection that is continuous, independent from cell entry, and associated with increased virus titers and cell fusion. Murine hepatitis virus macropinocytosis requires a fusogenic virus spike protein and signals through the epidermal growth factor receptor and the classical macropinocytosis pathway. These studies demonstrate CoV induction of macropinocytosis for a purpose other than entry and indicate that viruses likely exploit macropinocytosis at multiple steps in replication and pathogenesis.

Copyright © 2014 Freeman et al.