The recent emergence of novel pathogenic human and animal coronaviruses has highlighted the need for antiviral therapies that are effective against a spectrum of these viruses. We have used several strains of murine hepatitis virus (MHV) in cell culture and in vivo in mouse models to investigate the antiviral characteristics of peptide-conjugated antisense phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (P-PMOs). Ten P-PMOs directed against various target sites in the viral genome were tested in cell culture, and one of these (5TERM), which was complementary to the 5 terminus of the genomic RNA, was effective against six strains of MHV. Further studies were carried out with various arginine-rich peptides conjugated to the 5TERM PMO sequence in order to evaluate efficacy and toxicity and thereby select candidates for in vivo testing. In uninfected mice, prolonged P-PMO treatment did not result in weight loss or detectable histopathologic changes. 5TERM P-PMO treatment reduced viral titers in target organs and protected mice against virus-induced tissue damage. Prophylactic 5TERM P-PMO treatment decreased the amount of weight loss associated with infection under most experimental conditions. Treatment also prolonged survival in two lethal challenge models. In some cases of high-dose viral inoculation followed by delayed treatment, 5TERM P-PMO treatment was not protective and increased morbidity in the treated group, suggesting that P-PMO may cause toxic effects in diseased mice that were not apparent in the uninfected animals. However, the strong antiviral effect observed suggests that with further development, P-PMO may provide an effective therapeutic approach against a broad range of coronavirus infections.