JOURNAL ARTICLE

Discovery of Novel Bat Coronaviruses in South China That Use the Same Receptor as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus

Chu-Ming Luo, Ning Wang, Xing-Lou Yang, Hai-Zhou Liu, Wei Zhang, Bei Li, Ben Hu, Cheng Peng, Qi-Bin Geng, Guang-Jian Zhu, Fang Li, Zheng-Li Shi
Journal of Virology 2018 July 1, 92 (13)
29669833
Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has represented a human health threat since 2012. Although several MERS-related CoVs that belong to the same species as MERS-CoV have been identified from bats, they do not use the MERS-CoV receptor, dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4). Here, we screened 1,059 bat samples from at least 30 bat species collected in different regions in south China and identified 89 strains of lineage C betacoronaviruses, including Tylonycteris pachypus coronavirus HKU4 , Pipistrellus pipistrellus coronavirus HKU5 , and MERS-related CoVs. We sequenced the full-length genomes of two positive samples collected from the great evening bat, Ia io , from Guangdong Province. The two genomes were highly similar and exhibited genomic structures identical to those of other lineage C betacoronaviruses. While they exhibited genome-wide nucleotide identities of only 75.3 to 81.2% with other MERS-related CoVs, their gene-coding regions were highly similar to their counterparts, except in the case of the spike proteins. Further protein-protein interaction assays demonstrated that the spike proteins of these MERS-related CoVs bind to the receptor DPP4. Recombination analysis suggested that the newly discovered MERS-related CoVs have acquired their spike genes from a DPP4-recognizing bat coronavirus HKU4. Our study provides further evidence that bats represent the evolutionary origins of MERS-CoV. IMPORTANCE Previous studies suggested that MERS-CoV originated in bats. However, its evolutionary path from bats to humans remains unclear. In this study, we discovered 89 novel lineage C betacoronaviruses in eight bat species. We provide evidence of a MERS-related CoV derived from the great evening bat that uses the same host receptor as human MERS-CoV. This virus also provides evidence for a natural recombination event between the bat MERS-related CoV and another bat coronavirus, HKU4. Our study expands the host ranges of MERS-related CoV and represents an important step toward establishing bats as the natural reservoir of MERS-CoV. These findings may lead to improved epidemiological surveillance of MERS-CoV and the prevention and control of the spread of MERS-CoV to humans.

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