W08-006: Identification of the cellular receptor for feline coronaviruses

Feline coronaviruses (FCoVs) are well-known among veterinarians and owners for the devastating and lethal disease they cause: feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). There is presently neither adequate vaccine to prevent nor any therapy to treat this dramatic infection. A tremendous bottleneck that has precluded study of feline coronaviruses has been the lack of a suitable laboratory cell culture system for propagating the viruses and investigating their infection characteristics. Remarkably, all we presently know about FCoV comes from work with some rare hybrid viruses that occasionally arise when feline and canine coronaviruses simultaneously infect a cat or dog. The sole reason for this is that available feline culture cells cannot be infected by the ‘real’ FCoV, because they do not carry on their surface the molecule (‘receptor’) that the virus needs for its entry. The investigators aim to develop the necessary susceptible cells. They will artificially synthesize the viral protein that normally binds to the receptor. Using this protein, they will fish the receptor out from a homogenate of natural target cells, i.e. feline intestinal epithelial cells. The identity of the receptor will then be determined based on its molecular mass properties. This will allow them to obtain the gene encoding the receptor, which they can clone from the target cells. Finally, this gene will be introduced into culture cells in the laboratory, which will thereby become capable of infection by FCoVs. This will open the field for studying these viruses. (Bria Fund Study)

Grant ID: W08-006

Status: Active

Year Funded: 2008

Amount awarded: $15,000

Investigator: H.F. Egberink, DVM, PhD and P.J.M. Rottier, PhD; Utrecht University