Receptor Recognition by the Novel Coronavirus from Wuhan: an Analysis Based on Decade-Long Structural Studies of SARS Coronavirus

J Virol. 2020 Mar 17;94(7):e00127-20. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00127-20. Print 2020 Mar 17.

Abstract

Recently, a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has emerged from Wuhan, China, causing symptoms in humans similar to those caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV). Since the SARS-CoV outbreak in 2002, extensive structural analyses have revealed key atomic-level interactions between the SARS-CoV spike protein receptor-binding domain (RBD) and its host receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which regulate both the cross-species and human-to-human transmissions of SARS-CoV. Here, we analyzed the potential receptor usage by 2019-nCoV, based on the rich knowledge about SARS-CoV and the newly released sequence of 2019-nCoV. First, the sequence of 2019-nCoV RBD, including its receptor-binding motif (RBM) that directly contacts ACE2, is similar to that of SARS-CoV, strongly suggesting that 2019-nCoV uses ACE2 as its receptor. Second, several critical residues in 2019-nCoV RBM (particularly Gln493) provide favorable interactions with human ACE2, consistent with 2019-nCoV's capacity for human cell infection. Third, several other critical residues in 2019-nCoV RBM (particularly Asn501) are compatible with, but not ideal for, binding human ACE2, suggesting that 2019-nCoV has acquired some capacity for human-to-human transmission. Last, while phylogenetic analysis indicates a bat origin of 2019-nCoV, 2019-nCoV also potentially recognizes ACE2 from a diversity of animal species (except mice and rats), implicating these animal species as possible intermediate hosts or animal models for 2019-nCoV infections. These analyses provide insights into the receptor usage, cell entry, host cell infectivity and animal origin of 2019-nCoV and may help epidemic surveillance and preventive measures against 2019-nCoV.IMPORTANCE The recent emergence of Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV) puts the world on alert. 2019-nCoV is reminiscent of the SARS-CoV outbreak in 2002 to 2003. Our decade-long structural studies on the receptor recognition by SARS-CoV have identified key interactions between SARS-CoV spike protein and its host receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which regulate both the cross-species and human-to-human transmissions of SARS-CoV. One of the goals of SARS-CoV research was to build an atomic-level iterative framework of virus-receptor interactions to facilitate epidemic surveillance, predict species-specific receptor usage, and identify potential animal hosts and animal models of viruses. Based on the sequence of 2019-nCoV spike protein, we apply this predictive framework to provide novel insights into the receptor usage and likely host range of 2019-nCoV. This study provides a robust test of this reiterative framework, providing the basic, translational, and public health research communities with predictive insights that may help study and battle this novel 2019-nCoV.

Keywords: 2019-nCoV; SARS coronavirus; angiotensin-converting enzyme 2; animal reservoir; cross-species transmission; human-to-human transmission.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Betacoronavirus / classification
  • Betacoronavirus / physiology*
  • China
  • Chiroptera / virology
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology*
  • Host Specificity
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A / chemistry*
  • Phylogeny
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology*
  • Protein Domains
  • Receptors, Virus / chemistry*
  • SARS Virus / physiology
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / chemistry*

Substances

  • Receptors, Virus
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A
  • angiotensin converting enzyme 2

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2