The three known human highly pathogenic coronaviruses are severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, (MERS-CoV), and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Human highly pathogenic coronaviruses are composed of non-structural proteins, structural proteins and accessory proteins. Viral particles recognize host receptors via spike glycoprotein (S protein), enter host cells by membrane fusion, replicate in host cells through large replication-transcription complexes, and promote proliferation by interfering with and suppressing the host's immune response. Human highly pathogenic coronaviruses are hosted by humans and vertebrates. Viral particles are transmitted through droplets, contact and aerosols or likely through digestive tract, urine, eyes and other routes. This review discusses the mechanisms of proliferation and transmission of highly pathogenic human coronaviruses based on the results of existing research, providing basis for future study on interrupting the transmission and pathogenicity of human highly pathogenic coronaviruses.