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Virus classification e
(unranked): Virus
Realm: Riboviria
Phylum: incertae sedis
Order: Nidovirales
Suborder: Cornidovirineae
Family: Coronaviridae
Subfamilies and genera

Coronaviridae is a family of enveloped, positive-sense, single-stranded RNA viruses. The viral genome is 26–32 kilobases in length. The particles are typically decorated with large (~20 nm), club- or petal-shaped surface projections (the "peplomers" or "spikes"), which in electron micrographs of spherical particles create an image reminiscent of the solar corona.


Diagram of coronavirus virion structure

The 5' and 3' ends of the genome have a cap and poly(A) tract, respectively. The viral envelope, obtained by budding through membranes of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) or Golgi apparatus, invariably contains two virus-specified (glyco)protein species, S and M. Glycoprotein S comprises the large surface projections, while M is a triple-spanning transmembrane protein. Toroviruses and a select subset of coronaviruses (in particular the members of subgroup A in the genus Betacoronavirus) possess, in addition to the peplomers composed of S, a second type of surface projections composed of the hemagglutinin-esterase protein. Another important structural protein is the phosphoprotein N, which is responsible for the helical symmetry of the nucleocapsid that encloses the genomic RNA.[1]


The family Coronaviridae is organized in 2 sub-families, 5 genera, 23 sub-genera and about 40 species:[2]

illustration of coronavirus virion


Illustration of a coronavirus

Coronavirus is the common name for Coronaviridae and Orthocoronavirinae, also called Coronavirinae.[4][5] Coronaviruses cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, the viruses cause respiratory infections, including the common cold, which are typically mild, though rarer forms such as SARS (including the one causing COVID-19) and MERS can be lethal. Symptoms vary in other species: in chickens, they cause an upper respiratory disease, while in cows and pigs coronaviruses cause diarrhea. There are no vaccines or antiviral drugs to prevent or treat human coronavirus infections. They are enveloped viruses with a positive-sense single-stranded RNA genome and a nucleocapsid of helical symmetry. The genome size of coronaviruses ranges from approximately 26 to 32 kilobases, among the largest for an RNA virus (only second to a 41-kb nidovirus recently discovered in planaria).[6][7] The name "coronavirus" is derived from the Ancient Greek 'κορώνη' (korone), meaning crown or halo, which refers to the characteristic appearance of the virus particles (virions): they have a fringe reminiscent of a crown or of a solar corona.

Orthocoronavirinae taxonomy[edit]


  1. ^ McBride, Ruth; van Zyl, Marjorie; Fielding, Burtram C. (7 August 2014). "The Coronavirus Nucleocapsid Is a Multifunctional Protein". Viruses. 6 (8): 2991–3018. doi:10.3390/v6082991. PMC 4147684. PMID 25105276.
  2. ^ "Virus Taxonomy: 2018 Release". International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). October 2018. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  3. ^ Fan, Yi; Zhao, Kai; Shi, Zheng-Li; Zhou, Peng (2019). "Bat Coronaviruses in China". Viruses. 11 (3): 210. doi:10.3390/v11030210. ISSN 1999-4915. PMC 6466186. PMID 30832341.
  4. ^ "2017.012-015S" (xlsx). International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). October 2018. Archived from the original on 14 May 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  5. ^ "ICTV Taxonomy history: Orthocoronavirinae". International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  6. ^ "Coronavirus - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics". Retrieved 2020-04-02.
  7. ^ Saberi, Amir; Gulyaeva, Anastasia A.; Brubacher, John L.; Newmark, Phillip A.; Gorbalenya, Alexander E. (2018-11-01). Perlman, Stanley (ed.). "A planarian nidovirus expands the limits of RNA genome size". PLOS Pathogens. 14 (11): e1007314. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1007314. ISSN 1553-7374. PMC 6211748. PMID 30383829.

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