An "Old" protein with a new story: Coronavirus endoribonuclease is important for evading host antiviral defenses

Virology. 2018 Apr;517:157-163. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2017.12.024. Epub 2018 Jan 4.


Here we review the evolving story of the coronavirus endoribonuclease (EndoU). Coronavirus EndoU is encoded within the sequence of nonstructural protein (nsp) 15, which was initially identified as a component of the viral replication complex. Biochemical and structural studies revealed the enzymatic nature of nsp15/EndoU, which was postulated to be essential for the unique replication cycle of viruses in the order Nidovirales. However, the role of nsp15 in coronavirus replication was enigmatic as EndoU-deficient coronaviruses were viable and replicated to near wild-type virus levels in fibroblast cells. A breakthrough in our understanding of the role of EndoU was revealed in recent studies, which showed that EndoU mediates the evasion of viral double-stranded RNA recognition by host sensors in macrophages. This new discovery of nsp15/EndoU function leads to new opportunities for investigating how a viral EndoU contributes to pathogenesis and exploiting this enzyme for therapeutics and vaccine design against pathogenic coronaviruses.

Keywords: Antiviral defense; Coronavirus; Double-stranded RNA; Endoribonuclease; Host recognition; Interferon; Nsp15.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Coronavirus / enzymology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / immunology*
  • Endoribonucleases / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral / physiology*
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins
  • Virus Replication


  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins
  • Endoribonucleases