Molecular insights on the coronavirus MERS-CoV interaction with the CD26 receptor

Hila Failayev, Assaf Ganoth, Yossi Tsfadia*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a severe respiratory disease with high fatality rates, caused by the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). The virus initiates infection by binding to the CD26 receptor (also known as dipeptidyl peptidase 4 or DPP4) via its spike protein. Although the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the viral spike protein and the complex between RBD and the extracellular domain of CD26 have been studied using X-ray crystallography, conflicting studies exist regarding the importance of certain amino acids outside the resolved RBD-CD26 complex interaction interface. To gain atomic-level knowledge of the RBD-CD26 complex, we employed computational simulations to study the complex's dynamic behavior as it evolves from its crystal structure to a conformation stable in solution. Our study revealed previously unidentified interaction regions and interacting amino acids within the complex, determined a novel comprehensive RBD-binding domain of CD26, and by that expanded the current understanding of its structure. Additionally, we examined the impact of a single amino acid substitution, E513A, on the complex's stability. We discovered that this substitution disrupts the complex through an allosteric domino-like mechanism that affects other residues. Since MERS-CoV is a zoonotic virus, we evaluated its potential risk of human infection via animals, and suggest a low likelihood for possible infection by cats or dogs. The molecular structural information gleaned from our insights into the RBD-CD26 complex pre-dissociative states may be proved useful not only from a mechanistic view but also in assessing inter-species transmission and in developing anti-MERS-CoV antiviral therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number199330
JournalVirus Research
StatePublished - Apr 2024


FundersFunder number
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries
Tel Aviv University


    • CD26
    • Inter-species transmission
    • MERS-CoV
    • Middle East respiratory syndrome
    • Protein-protein interaction
    • spike protein


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