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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Is lactase the receptor and uncoating enzyme for infantile enteritis (rota) viruses?

Rotaviruses are now regarded as important causes of diarrhoea in man, cattle, pigs, mice, and possibly other animals. Characteristically, disease occurs in newborn and young animals, and infection seems limited to the differentiated gut epithelial cells. The major surface polypeptide of the calf scours rotavirus is glycosylated, and highly purified beta-galactosidase ( lactase) interacts with the virus in vitro causing removal of the outer shell of the capsid (uncoating). It is suggested that lactase present in the brush border of the intestinal epithelial cell performs a similar function in vivo by acting as a combined receptor and uncoating enzyme for the rotavirus. This hypothesis is consistent with the observations that rotaviruses seem to infect only gut epithelial cells, and that infant animals, whose lactase concentrations are generally higher than those of adult animals, seem more susceptible to rotavirus infections. Implications of the hypothesis include possible new approaches to laboratory cultivation of rotaviruses, which should be more successful in cells selected for surface lactase activity, and the suggestion that the epidemiology of human rotavirus infections may be influenced by the fact that different ethnic groups have different lactase levels (and hence lactose intolerance) in adulthood.[1]


  1. Is lactase the receptor and uncoating enzyme for infantile enteritis (rota) viruses? Holmes, I.H., Rodger, S.M., Schnagl, R.D., Ruck, B.J., Gust, I.D., Bishop, R.F., Barnes, G.L. Lancet (1976) [Pubmed]
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