The emerging pathogenic coronavirus hCoV-EMC, first identified in September 2012, has been fatal in about half of the few humans infected so far. Bart Haagmans and colleagues have now identified the receptor that this virus uses to infect cells. In contrast to the related virus SARS-CoV, which uses angiotensin converting enzyme 2, the functional receptor for hCoV-EMC is dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4, also known as CD26), an exopeptidase found on non-ciliated cells in the lower respiratory tract. This enzyme is highly conserved across different species, and hCoV-EMC can also use bat DPP4 as a functional receptor — a possible clue as to the host range and epidemiological history of this new virus. The findings may also be important for the development of intervention strategies.
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