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The peplomers (red and orange) of a SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
3D print of the peplomers of SARS-CoV-2

A peplomer is a glycoprotein spike on a viral capsid or viral envelope.[1] These protrusions bind only to certain receptors on the host cell. They are essential for both host specificity and viral infectivity.

The term is rarely used today and is no longer used for all outwardly protruding envelope proteins; it is mostly replaced by the less precise expression spikes. However, this suggests a pointed structure, which is not the case with these envelope structures; they are round, flattened or button-shaped on the outside. Both terms, peplomer and spikes, however, only describe a morphologically visible structure and are not identical to the expression membrane protein or coat protein; many other membrane proteins in viruses do not form these prominent structures.

The term peplomer is mostly used only for a few virus groups in which the envelope proteins develop particularly large and characteristic structures, for example in the Orthomyxoviridae and the Coronaviridae.

The tail fibers of some bacteriophages, especially the T4-like phages, are modified peplomers.[citation needed]

Influenza virus has two kinds of peplomers:

  1. Cylinder shaped "haemagglutinin"
  2. Mushroom-shaped "neuraminidase".[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary (3rd ed.). Elsevier, Inc. 2007. as cited in "peplomer". The Free Dictionary. Farlex. 2011. Retrieved 30 Mar 2011.
  2. ^ "Types of Influenza Viruses". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019-11-18. Retrieved 2020-11-22.

Further reading[edit]

  • F. Fenner et al.: The Biology of Animal Viruses, 2. Auflage, New York, London 1968, ISBN 0-12-253040-3, S. 5f
  • D. J. Garwes et al.: Identification of epitopes of immunological importance on the peplomer of porcine transmissible gastroenteritis virus. Adv Exp Med Biol. (1987) 218: S. 509–515, PMID 2449047
  • H. G. Niesters et al.: The peplomer protein sequence of the M41 strain of coronavirus IBV and its comparison with Beaudette strains. Virus Res. (1986) 5(2-3): S. 253–263, PMID 2429473