Unique and conserved features of genome and proteome of SARS-coronavirus, an early split-off from the coronavirus group 2 lineage

Journal of Molecular Biology
Eric J SnijderAlexander E Gorbalenya


The genome organization and expression strategy of the newly identified severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) were predicted using recently published genome sequences. Fourteen putative open reading frames were identified, 12 of which were predicted to be expressed from a nested set of eight subgenomic mRNAs. The synthesis of these mRNAs in SARS-CoV-infected cells was confirmed experimentally. The 4382- and 7073 amino acid residue SARS-CoV replicase polyproteins are predicted to be cleaved into 16 subunits by two viral proteinases (bringing the total number of SARS-CoV proteins to 28). A phylogenetic analysis of the replicase gene, using a distantly related torovirus as an outgroup, demonstrated that, despite a number of unique features, SARS-CoV is most closely related to group 2 coronaviruses. Distant homologs of cellular RNA processing enzymes were identified in group 2 coronaviruses, with four of them being conserved in SARS-CoV. These newly recognized viral enzymes place the mechanism of coronavirus RNA synthesis in a completely new perspective. Furthermore, together with previously described viral enzymes, they will be important targets for the design of antiviral strategies aimed at controlling the fur...Continue Reading


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