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Glycoconj J. 2006 Feb;23(1-2):51-8.

Sialic acids as receptor determinants for coronaviruses.

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Institut für Virologie, Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover, Bünteweg 17, 30559 Hannover, Germany.


Among coronaviruses, several members are able to interact with sialic acids. For bovine coronavirus (BCoV) and related viruses, binding to cell surface components containing N-acetyl-9- O-acetylneuraminic acid is essential for initiation of an infection. These viruses resemble influenza C viruses because they share not only the receptor determinant, but also the presence of an acetylesterase that releases the 9- O-acetyl group from sialic acid and thus abolishes the ability of the respective sialoglycoconjugate to function as a receptor for BCoV. As in the case of influenza viruses, the receptor-destroying enzyme of BCoV is believed to facilitate the spread of virus infection by removing receptor determinants from the surface of infected cells and by preventing the formation of virus aggregates. Another coronavirus, porcine transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) preferentially recognizes N-glycolylneuraminic acid. TGEV does not contain a receptor-destroying enzyme and does not depend on the sialic acid binding activity for infection of cultured cells. However, binding to sialic acids is required for the enteropathogenicity of TGEV. Interaction with sialoglycoconjugates may help the virus to pass through the sialic acid-rich mucus layer that covers the viral target cells in the epithelium of the small intestine. We discuss that the BCoV group of viruses may have evolved from a TGEV-like ancestor by acquiring an acetylesterase gene through heterologous recombination.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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