Kallikrein 13 serves as a priming protease during infection by the human coronavirus HKU1

Sci Signal. 2020 Nov 24;13(659):eaba9902. doi: 10.1126/scisignal.aba9902.


Human coronavirus HKU1 (HCoV-HKU1) is associated with respiratory disease and is prevalent worldwide, but an in vitro model for viral replication is lacking. An interaction between the coronaviral spike (S) protein and its receptor is the primary determinant of tissue and host specificity; however, viral entry is a complex process requiring the concerted action of multiple cellular elements. Here, we found that the protease kallikrein 13 (KLK13) was required for the infection of human respiratory epithelial cells and was sufficient to mediate the entry of HCoV-HKU1 into nonpermissive RD cells. We also demonstrated the cleavage of the HCoV-HKU1 S protein by KLK13 in the S1/S2 region, suggesting that KLK13 is the priming enzyme for this virus. Together, these data suggest that protease distribution and specificity determine the tissue and cell specificity of the virus and may also regulate interspecies transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus / genetics
  • Betacoronavirus / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Coronavirus Infections* / enzymology
  • Coronavirus Infections* / genetics
  • Coronavirus Infections* / pathology
  • Epithelial Cells* / enzymology
  • Epithelial Cells* / pathology
  • Epithelial Cells* / virology
  • Humans
  • Kallikreins / genetics
  • Kallikreins / metabolism*
  • Respiratory Mucosa* / enzymology
  • Respiratory Mucosa* / pathology
  • Respiratory Mucosa* / virology
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / genetics
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / metabolism*


  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • KLK13 protein, human
  • Kallikreins