The spike glycoprotein of the newly emerged SARS-CoV-2 contains a potential cleavage site for furin proteases. This observation has implications for the zoonotic origin of the virus and its epidemic spread in China.
The membrane of coronaviruses harbors a trimeric transmembrane spike (S) glycoprotein (pictured) which is essential for entry of virus particles into the cell. The S protein contains two functional domains: a receptor binding domain, and a second domain which contains sequences that mediate fusion of the viral and cell membranes. The S glycoprotein must be cleaved by cell proteases to enable exposure of the fusion sequences and hence is needed for cell entry.