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The envelope of equine arteritis virus (EAV) contains two glycoprotein complexes (GP2b/GP3/GP4 and GP5/M) and the small, non-glycosylated E protein. As E is essential for the production of infectious progeny but dispensable for assembly and release of virus-like particles, it probably mediates virus entry into cells, putatively in concert with the GP2b/GP3/GP4 complex. The E protein contains a central hydrophobic domain and a conserved potential site for N-terminal myristoylation, a hydrophobic modification usually pivotal for membrane targeting of the modified protein. Here, it was shown by radiolabelling that E is myristoylated at glycine-2, both in transfected cells as a fusion protein with yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) and in virus particles. Biochemical fractionation revealed that E-YFP with an inactivated acylation site was still completely membrane-bound, indicating that the putative transmembrane domain of E mediates membrane targeting. Confocal microscopy showed that both myristoylated and non-myristoylated E-YFP were localized to the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi complex, the membranes from which EAV buds. The presence of a myristoylation inhibitor during replication of EAV, whilst completely blocking E acylation, reduced virus titres by 1.5 log(10). Similarly, a mutant EAV with non-myristoylatable E grew to a titre five- to sevenfold lower than that of the wild-type virus and exhibited a reduced plaque size. Western blotting of cell-culture supernatants showed that N and M, the major structural proteins of EAV, are released in similar amounts by cells transfected with wild-type and mutant genomes. Thus, E myristoylation is not required for budding of particles and probably has a function during virus entry.