The results presented here demonstrate that the MHV and SARS-CoV nsp2 proteins are not required for the production of infectious virus, for polyprotein expression or processing, or for viral replication complex formation in cell culture. The nsp2 protein domain resides in a region of the coronavirus replicase that is relatively nonconserved across coronaviruses. In fact, the size and amino acid sequence variability of nsp2 across the different coronaviruses has led some investigators to speculate that the nsp2 protein, along with the nsp1 and nsp3 proteins, may play host- and/or cell-specific roles in the virus life cycle. While this may be the case, it should be noted that nsp2, in some form, exists in all coronaviruses studied to date and likely plays a pivotal role in the viral life cycle. A previous study from our laboratory identified a coronavirus replicase protein that plays an important role in viral pathogenesis. Such may prove to be the case for nsp2, as well. Alternatively, beacuse nsp2 exists as a detectable precursor protein nsp2-3 prior to processing of nsp2 and nsp3 into mature proteins, nsp2 may play a critical adaptor/regulatory role for nsp3 function. Importantly, the viruses produced in this study provide a system by which the role of the nsp2 protein in viral infection can be characterized.