Identification of nucleolin as a cellular receptor for human respiratory syncytial virus

Nat Med. 2011 Aug 14;17(9):1132-5. doi: 10.1038/nm.2444.


Human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes a large burden of disease worldwide. There is no effective vaccine or therapy, and the use of passive immunoprophylaxis with RSV-specific antibodies is limited to high-risk patients. The cellular receptor (or receptors) required for viral entry and replication has yet to be described; its identification will improve understanding of the pathogenesis of infection and provide a target for the development of novel antiviral interventions. Here we show that RSV interacts with host-cell nucleolin via the viral fusion envelope glycoprotein and binds specifically to nucleolin at the apical cell surface in vitro. We observed decreased RSV infection in vitro in neutralization experiments using nucleolin-specific antibodies before viral inoculation, in competition experiments in which virus was incubated with soluble nucleolin before inoculation of cells, and upon RNA interference (RNAi) to silence cellular nucleolin expression. Transfection of nonpermissive Spodoptera frugiperda Sf9 insect cells with human nucleolin conferred susceptibility to RSV infection. RNAi-mediated knockdown of lung nucleolin was associated with a significant reduction in RSV infection in mice (P = 0.0004), confirming that nucleolin is a functional RSV receptor in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Humans
  • Immunoprecipitation
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism*
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Viruses / metabolism*
  • Spodoptera
  • Transfection
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / metabolism
  • Virus Internalization*


  • Phosphoproteins
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Viral Envelope Proteins
  • nucleolin