Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) exhibits
high predicted binding affinity to ACE2 from lagomorphs.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2
(SARS-CoV-2) is causing the pandemic Coronavirus Disease 2019
(COVID-19). The crystal structure of SARS-CoV-2 in complex with its
receptor human ACE2 (hACE2) has been recently solved and the main amino
acid residues involved in the complex virus-receptor have been detected.
To predict whether lagomorphs can be infected by SARS-CoV-2, ACE2
sequences from rabbits, American pikas and from other mammals were
compared with hACE2 sequences. Models of the complex formed by
SARS-CoV-2 and ACE2 from lagomorphs and from other mammals were created
for comparative studies. A low number of substitutions was found in
lagomorph ACE2 sequences. Analysis of the contacts involved in the
simulated complex SARS-CoV-2-ACE2 suggested that lagomorphs can be
susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection, probably similarly to cats but
lower than hamsters. These findings justify the planning of future in
vitro and in vivo studies and suggest that more investigation should
assess the epidemiological role of lagomorphs in SARS-CoV-2 spread.
Furthermore, the risks to humans coming into close contacts with these
animals should evaluated.