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

Journal of Virology
Yushun WanFang Li


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-t...Continue Reading

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