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Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2012 Feb;23(1):116-23. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2011.12.005. Epub 2011 Dec 30.

Ephrin-B2 and ephrin-B3 as functional henipavirus receptors.

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Structural Biology Program, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021, USA.


Members of the ephrin cell-surface protein family interact with the Eph receptors, the largest family of receptor tyrosine kinases, mediating bi-directional signaling during tumorogenesis and various developmental events. Surprisingly, ephrin-B2 and -B3 were recently identified as entry receptors for henipaviruses, emerging zoonotic paramyxoviruses responsible for repeated outbreaks in humans and animals in Australia, Southeast Asia, India and Bangladesh. Nipah virus (NiV) and Hendra virus (HeV) are the only two identified members in the henipavirus genus. While the initial human infection cases came from contact with infected pigs (NiV) or horses (HeV), in the more recent outbreaks of NiV both food-borne and human-to-human transmission were reported. These characteristics, together with high mortality and morbidity rates and lack of effective anti-viral therapies, make the henipaviruses a potential biological-agent threat. Viral entry is an important target for the development of anti-viral drugs. The entry of henipavirus is initiated by the attachment of the viral G envelope glycoprotein to the host cell receptors ephrin-B2 and/or -B3, followed by activation of the F fusion protein, which triggers fusion between the viral envelop and the host membrane. We review recent progress in the study of henipavirus entry, particularly the identification of ephrins as their entry receptors, and the structural characterization of the ephrin/Henipa-G interactions.

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