Jun 9, 2020Paper

Emergence of SARS-CoV-2 through Recombination and Strong Purifying Selection

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Xiaojun LiFeng Gao


COVID-19 has become a global pandemic caused by a novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Understanding the origins of SARS-CoV-2 is critical for deterring future zoonosis and for drug discovery and vaccine development. We show evidence of strong purifying selection around the receptor binding motif (RBM) in the spike gene and in other genes among bat, pangolin and human coronaviruses, indicating similar strong evolutionary constraints in different host species. We also demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2's entire RBM was introduced through recombination with coronaviruses from pangolins, possibly a critical step in the evolution of SARS-CoV-2's ability to infect humans. Similar purifying selection in different host species and frequent recombination among coronaviruses suggest a common evolutionary mechanism that could lead to new emerging human coronaviruses. Extensive Recombination and Strong Purifying Selection among coronaviruses from different hosts facilitate the emergence of SARS-CoV-2.


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