n. (context virology English) A member of the genus ''Coronavirus'', comprising viruses which infect animals and whose genome consists of a single strand of RNA. (from 1960s)
Coronaviruses are species in the genera of virus belonging to one of two subfamilies Coronavirinae and Torovirinae in the family Coronaviridae, in the order Nidovirales. Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses with a positive-sense single-stranded RNA genome and with a nucleocapsid of helical symmetry. The genomic size of coronaviruses ranges from approximately 26 to 32 kilobases, the largest for an RNA virus.
The name "coronavirus" is derived from the Latin corona, meaning crown or halo, and refers to the characteristic appearance of virions under electron microscopy (E.M.) with a fringe of large, bulbous surface projections creating an image reminiscent of a royal crown or of the solar corona. This morphology is created by the viral spike (S) peplomers, which are proteins that populate the surface of the virus and determine host tropism.
Proteins that contribute to the overall structure of all coronaviruses are the spike (S), envelope (E), membrane (M) and nucleocapsid (N). In the specific case of the SARS coronavirus ( see below), a defined receptor-binding domain on S mediates the attachment of the virus to its cellular receptor, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Some coronaviruses (specifically the members of Betacoronavirus subgroup A) also have a shorter spike-like protein called hemagglutinin esterase (HE).