SARS-CoV-2 gene content and COVID-19 mutation impact by comparing 44 Sarbecovirus genomes
Author(s)Jungreis, Irwin; Sealfon, Rachel; Kellis, Manolis
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Despite its clinical importance, the SARS-CoV-2 gene set remains unresolved, hindering dissection of COVID-19 biology. We use comparative genomics to provide a high-confidence protein-coding gene set, characterize evolutionary constraint, and prioritize functional mutations. We select 44 Sarbecovirus genomes at ideally-suited evolutionary distances, and quantify protein-coding evolutionary signatures and overlapping constraint. We find strong protein-coding signatures for ORFs 3a, 6, 7a, 7b, 8, 9b, and a novel alternate-frame gene, ORF3c, whereas ORFs 2b, 3d/3d-2, 3b, 9c, and 10 lack protein-coding signatures or convincing experimental evidence of protein-coding function. Furthermore, we show no other conserved protein-coding genes remain to be discovered. Mutation analysis suggests ORF8 contributes to within-individual fitness but not person-to-person transmission. Cross-strain and within-strain evolutionary pressures agree, except for fewer-than-expected within-strain mutations in nsp3 and S1, and more-than-expected in nucleocapsid, which shows a cluster of mutations in a predicted B-cell epitope, suggesting immune-avoidance selection. Evolutionary histories of residues disrupted by spike-protein substitutions D614G, N501Y, E484K, and K417N/T provide clues about their biology, and we catalog likely-functional co-inherited mutations. Previously reported RNA-modification sites show no enrichment for conservation. Here we report a high-confidence gene set and evolutionary-history annotations providing valuable resources and insights on SARS-CoV-2 biology, mutations, and evolution.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Jungreis, Irwin et al. "SARS-CoV-2 gene content and COVID-19 mutation impact by comparing 44 Sarbecovirus genomes." Nature Communications 12, 1 (May 2021): 2642. © 2021 The Author(s)
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