Profiling SARS-CoV-2 mutation fingerprints that range from the viral pangenome to individual infection quasispecies.

Genome Medicine
Billy T LauHanlee P Ji

Abstract

The genome of SARS-CoV-2 is susceptible to mutations during viral replication due to the errors generated by RNA-dependent RNA polymerases. These mutations enable the SARS-CoV-2 to evolve into new strains. Viral quasispecies emerge from de novo mutations that occur in individual patients. In combination, these sets of viral mutations provide distinct genetic fingerprints that reveal the patterns of transmission and have utility in contact tracing. Leveraging thousands of sequenced SARS-CoV-2 genomes, we performed a viral pangenome analysis to identify conserved genomic sequences. We used a rapid and highly efficient computational approach that relies on k-mers, short tracts of sequence, instead of conventional sequence alignment. Using this method, we annotated viral mutation signatures that were associated with specific strains. Based on these highly conserved viral sequences, we developed a rapid and highly scalable targeted sequencing assay to identify mutations, detect quasispecies variants, and identify mutation signatures from patients. These results were compared to the pangenome genetic fingerprints. We built a k-mer index for thousands of SARS-CoV-2 genomes and identified conserved genomics regions and landscape of mut...Continue Reading

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