Feline panleukopenia virus (FPV) is a pathogen whose canine-adapted form (canine parvovirus (CPV)) emerged in 1978. These viruses infect by binding host transferrin receptor type-1 (TfR), but also hemagglutinate erythrocytes. We show that hemagglutination involves selective recognition of the non-human sialic acid N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc) but not N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac), which differs by only one oxygen atom from Neu5Gc. Overexpression of α2-6 sialyltransferase did not change binding, indicating that both α2-3 and α2-6 linkages are recognized. However, Neu5Gc expression on target cells did not enhance CPV or FPV infection in vitro. Thus, the conserved Neu5Gc-binding preference of these viruses likely plays a role in the natural history of the virus in vivo. Further studies must clarify relationships between virus infection and host Neu5Gc expression. As a first step, we show that transcripts of CMAH (which generates Neu5Gc from Neu5Ac) are at very low levels in Western dog breed cells.
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