Insights into the secondary structural ensembles of the full SARS-CoV-2 RNA genome in infected cells

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Silvi RouskinAnthony Griffiths

Abstract

SARS-CoV-2 is a betacoronavirus with a single-stranded, positive-sense, 30-kilobase RNA genome responsible for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, there are no antiviral drugs with proven efficacy, and development of these treatments are hampered by our limited understanding of the molecular and structural biology of the virus. Like many other RNA viruses, RNA structures in coronaviruses regulate gene expression and are crucial for viral replication. Although genome and transcriptome data were recently reported, there is to date little experimental data on native RNA structures in SARS-CoV-2 and most putative regulatory sequences are functionally uncharacterized. Here we report secondary structure ensembles of the entire SARS-CoV-2 genome in infected cells at single nucleotide resolution using dimethyl sulfate mutational profiling with sequencing (DMS-MaPseq) and the algorithm ‘detection of RNA folding ensembles using expectation–maximization’ clustering (DREEM). Our results reveal previously undescribed alternative RNA conformations across the genome, including structures of the frameshift stimulating element (FSE), a major drug target, that are drastically different from prevailing in vitro population average models. Im...Continue Reading

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