Coronaviruses fusion with the membrane and entry to the host cell

Ann Agric Environ Med. 2020 Jun 19;27(2):175-183. doi: 10.26444/aaem/122079. Epub 2020 May 15.


Coronaviruses (CoVs) are positive-strand RNA viruses with the largest genome among all RNA viruses. They are able to infect many host, such as mammals or birds. Whereas CoVs were identified 1930s, they became known again in 2003 as the agents of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The spike protein is thought to be essential in the process of CoVs entry, because it is associated with the binding to the receptor on the host cell. It is also involved in cell tropism and pathogenesis. Receptor recognition is the crucial step in the infection. CoVs are able to bind a variety of receptors, although the selection of receptor remains unclear. Coronaviruses were initially believed to enter cells by fusion with the plasma membrane. Further studies demonstrated that many of them involve endocytosis through clathrin-dependent, caveolae-dependent, clathrin-independent, as well as caveolae-independent mechanisms. The aim of this review is to summarise current knowledge about coronaviruses, focussing especially on CoVs entry into the host cell. Advances in understanding coronaviruses replication strategy and the functioning of the replicative structures are also highlighted. The development of host-directed antiviral therapy seems to be a promising way to treat infections with SARS-CoV or other pathogenic coronaviruses. There is still much to be discovered in the inventory of pro- and anti-viral host factors relevant for CoVs replication. The latest pandemic danger, originating from China, has given our previously prepared work even more of topicality.

Keywords: coronavirus; membrane fusion; nonstructural proteins; replication complex; spike protein; viral entry.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / virology*
  • Coronavirus / genetics
  • Coronavirus / physiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology*
  • Humans
  • Viral Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism
  • Viral Tropism
  • Virus Internalization*


  • Viral Proteins