News Release

NIH-funded scientists identify receptor for asthma-associated virus

Receptor gene variant may increase risk of childhood illnesses, asthma

Peer-Reviewed Publication

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Scientists funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, have identified a cellular receptor for rhinovirus C, a cold-causing virus that is strongly associated with severe asthma attacks. A variant in the gene for this receptor previously had been linked to asthma in genetic studies, but the potential role of the receptor, called CDHR3, in asthma was unknown. The new findings help clarify the function of CDHR3 and point to a novel target for the development of prevention and treatment strategies against rhinovirus C-induced colds and asthma attacks.

Researchers led by James Gern, M.D., at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, discovered that CDHR3 recognizes and binds rhinovirus C, enabling the virus to enter human cells. Like all viruses, rhinovirus C uses the molecular machinery of host cells to replicate and become infectious. While the cellular receptors for other rhinovirus types are known, the rhinovirus C receptor had remained elusive. The scientists identified CDHR3 as a potential candidate by analyzing cells that either were or were not susceptible to rhinovirus C infection. When engineered to produce CDHR3, cells that normally were not susceptible to rhinovirus C could bind the virus and support its replication.

Notably, cells bearing a specific CDHR3 gene variant showed greatly enhanced rhinovirus C binding and produced more progeny virus than cells with normal CDHR3. In previous genetic studies, this variant had been linked to a greater risk of wheezing illnesses and asthma hospitalizations during childhood. The new findings suggest that this gene variant could be a risk factor for childhood wheezing illnesses caused by rhinovirus C, which in turn may increase the risk of developing asthma. In the future, development of drugs that block CDHR3 potentially could help prevent and treat illnesses caused by rhinovirus C.


YA Bochkov et al. Cadherin-related family member 3, a childhood asthma susceptibility gene product, mediates rhinovirus C binding and replication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1421178112 (2015).

Alkis Togias, M.D., chief of the Allergy, Asthma and Airway Biology Branch in NIAID's Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation, is available to comment on the findings.

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NIAID conducts and supports research--at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide--to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID website .

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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