Discovery of Novel Bat Coronaviruses in South China That Use the Same Receptor as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus.J Virol. 2018 07 01; 92(13)JV
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 pipistrelluscoronavirus 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.