Only a subset of viruses can productively infect many different host species. Some arthropod-transmitted viruses, such as alphaviruses, can infect invertebrate and vertebrate species including insects, reptiles, birds, and mammals. This broad tropism may be explained by their ability to engage receptors that are conserved across vertebrate and invertebrate classes. Through several genome-wide loss-of-function screens, new alphavirus receptors have been identified, some of which bind to multiple related viruses in different antigenic complexes. Structural analysis has revealed that distinct sites on the alphavirus glycoprotein can mediate receptor binding, which opposes the idea that a single receptor-binding site mediates viral entry. Here, we discuss how different paradigms of receptor engagement on cells might explain the promiscuity of alphaviruses for multiple hosts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-93
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • alphavirus
  • receptor
  • structure
  • tropism


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