The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), isolated from humans infected during the peak of epidemic, encodes two accessory proteins termed as 8a and 8b. Interestingly, the SARS-CoV isolated from animals contains an extra 29-nucleotide in this region such that these proteins are fused to become a single protein, 8ab. Here, we compared the cellular properties of the 8a, 8b and 8ab proteins by examining their cellular localizations and their abilities to interact with other SARS-CoV proteins. These results may suggest that the conformations of 8a and 8b are different from 8ab although nearly all the amino acids in 8a and 8b are found in 8ab. In addition, the expression of the structural protein, envelope (E), was down-regulated by 8b but not 8a or 8ab. Consequently, E was not detectable in SARS-CoV-infected cells that were expressing high levels of 8b. These findings suggest that 8b may modulate viral replication and/or pathogenesis.