Highly conserved binding region of ACE2 as a receptor for SARS-CoV-2 between humans and mammals

Takuma Hayashi, Kaoru Abiko, Masaki Mandai, Nobuo Yaegashi, Ikuo Konishi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Several cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection transmitted from human owners to their dogs have recently been reported. The first ever case of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from a human owner to a domestic cat was confirmed on March 27, 2020. A tiger from a zoo in New York, USA, was also reportedly infected with SARS-CoV-2. It is believed that SARS-CoV-2 was transmitted to tigers from their caretakers, who were previously infected with this virus. On May 25, 2020, the Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality reported that two employees were infected with SARS-CoV-2 transmitted from minks. These reports have influenced us to perform a comparative analysis among angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) homologous proteins for verifying the conservation of specific protein regions. One of the most conserved peptides is represented by the peptide “353-KGDFR-357 (H. sapiens ACE2 residue numbering), which is located on the surface of the ACE2 molecule and participates in the binding of SARS-CoV-2 spike receptor binding domain (RBD). Multiple sequence alignments of the ACE2 proteins by ClustalW, whereas the three-dimensional structure of its binding region for the spike glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2 was assessed by means of Spanner, a structural homology modeling pipeline method. In addition, evolutionary phylogenetic tree analysis by ETE3 was used. ACE2 works as a receptor for the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein between humans, dogs, cats, tigers, minks, and other animals, except for snakes. The three-dimensional structure of the KGDFR hosting protein region involved in direct interactions with SARS-CoV-2 spike RBD of the mink ACE2 appears to form a loop structurally related to the human ACE2 corresponding protein loop, despite of the reduced available protein length (401 residues of the mink ACE2 available sequence vs 805 residues of the human ACE2). The multiple sequence alignments of the ACE2 proteins shows high homology and complete conservation of the five amino acid residues: 353-KGDFR-357 with humans, dogs, cats, tigers, minks, and other animals, except for snakes. Where the information revealed from our examinations can support precision vaccine design and the discovery of antiviral therapeutics, which will accelerate the development of medical countermeasures, the World Health Organization recently reported on the possible risks of reciprocal infections regarding SARS-CoV-2 transmission from animals to humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-249
Number of pages7
JournalVeterinary Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jan 1


  • ACE2
  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • binding region
  • mink

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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