Conserved Genomic Terminals of SARS-CoV-2 as Co-evolving Functional Elements and Potential Therapeutic Targets

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
A. P. ChanNicholas J Schork

Abstract

To identify features in the genome of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic that may contribute to its viral replication, host pathogenicity, and vulnerabilities, we investigated how and to what extent the SARS-CoV-2 genome sequence differs from other well-characterized human and animal coronavirus genomes. Our analyses suggest the presence of unique sequence signatures in the 3'-untranslated region (UTR) of betacoronavirus lineage B, which phylogenetically encompasses SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, as well as multiple groups of bat and animal coronaviruses. In addition, we identified genome-wide patterns of variation across different SARS-CoV-2 strains that likely reflect the effects of selection. Finally, we provide evidence for a possible host microRNA-mediated interaction between the 3'-UTR and human microRNA hsa-miR-1307-3p based on predicted, yet extensive, complementary base-pairings and similar interactions involving the Influenza A H1N1 virus. This interaction also suggests a possible survival mechanism, whereby a mutation in the SARS-CoV-2 3'-UTR leads to a weakened host immune response. The potential roles of host microRNAs in SARS-CoV-2 replication and infection, and the exploitation of conserved feat...Continue Reading

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