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Research Abstracts Online
January 2010 - March 2011

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Medical School
Department of Pharmacology

PI: Fang Li

Invasion Mechanisms of SARS Coronavirus and Its Animal Origins

The SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV) invades host cells via its spike protein. The spike protein contains a receptor-binding subunit S1 and a membrane-fusion subunit S2. During cell entry, a defined receptor-binding domain (RBD) on S1 binds to its cellular receptor ACE2, and S2 fuses the viral and cellular membranes. Built on prior research on the crystal structure of RBD complexed with ACE2 and on the conformational states of the spike protein, this project investigates the invasion mechanisms of SARS coronavirus and its animal origins. The first step is to find the triggers for SARS-CoV entry into cells. Next, the researchers will determine the crystal structures of the spike protein in different states, which will provide structural basis for SARS-CoV entry. Finally, they will obtain detailed structural information for the cross-species infections of SARS-CoV. These studies will provide a comprehensive and thorough understanding of the entry mechanisms of SARS-CoV, help develop antiviral strategies, and elucidate animal origins of the virus.

Group Members

Quiling Peng, Research Associate
Kailang Wu, Research Associate