Advancing the health and well-being of animals and people

Principal Investigator: Gary Whittaker

Department of Microbiology & Immunology
Email:; Phone: 607-253-4019
Sponsor: Cornell Feline Health Center
Grant Number: N/A
Title: Characterization of the in vivo Proteases Involved in Feline Coronavirus Infection and Development of FIP
Annual Direct Cost: $49,710
Project Period: 08/01/2013-07/31/2014

Description (Provided by applicant): Feline coronaviruses (FCoVs) are the causative agent of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), which is a lethal disease of cats. FCoVs exist is two distinct serotypes, as well as two biotypes. One biotype, feline enteric coronavirus (FECV) is common in cats, infects enterocytes in the gastro-intestinal tract and causes only mild disease. The second biotype, feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIPV) infects macrophages, spreads systemically and causes FIP in approximately 1-5% of FCoV-infected cats. Both serotypes of FCoV can cause FIP. A long-standing hypothesis has been that lethal FIPVs derive from benign FECVs by a process of “internal mutation”, yet biological evidence for this process has been limited. Our current work has provided strong support for the internal mutation hypothesis, and we have recently shown that mutation in a proteolytic cleavage site(s) in the FECV spike protein strongly correlates with the development of FIP in cats. Overall, our work has highlighted the critical role for processing of the FCoV spike by host cell proteases and its involvement in viral pathogenesis. However, there remains only limited knowledge of what host cell proteases are acting on the FCoV spike, either in the gastro-intestinal tract or in macrophages.