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1.
EuropePMC; 2021.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-318395

ABSTRACT

SARS-CoV-2 replication requires the synthesis of a set of structural proteins expressed through discontinuous transcription of ten subgenomic mRNAs (sgmRNAs). Here, we have fine-tuned a droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) assays to accurately detect and quantify SARS-CoV-2 genomic ORF1ab and sgmRNAs for the nucleocapsid (N) and spike (S) proteins. We analyzed 166 RNAs from anonymized COVID-19 positive subjects and we found a recurrent and characteristic pattern of sgmRNAs expression in relation to the total viral RNA content. Further, we observed that expression profiles of sgmRNAs analyzed in a subset of 110 samples subjected to meta-transcriptomics sequencing were highly correlated with those obtained by ddPCR. Our results, providing a comprehensive and dynamic snapshot of SARS-CoV-2 sgmRNAs expression and replication, may contribute to provide a better understanding of SARS-CoV-2 transcription and expression mechanisms, and support the development of more accurate molecular diagnostic tools and for the stratification of COVID-19 patients.

2.
Bioinformatics ; 2022 Jan 18.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1631198

ABSTRACT

MOTIVATION: The ongoing evolution of SARS-CoV-2 and the rapid emergence of variants of concern (VOCs) at distinct geographic locations have relevant implications for the implementation of strategies for controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. Combining the growing body of data and the evidence on potential functional implications of SARS-CoV-2 mutations can suggest highly effective methods for the prioritization of novel variants of potential concern, e.g., increasing in frequency locally and/or globally. However, these analyses may be complex, requiring the integration of different data and resources. We claim the need for a streamlined access to up-to-date and high-quality genome sequencing data from different geographic regions/countries, and the current lack of a robust and consistent framework for the evaluation/comparison of the results. RESULTS: To overcome these limitations, we developed ViruClust, a novel tool for the comparison of SARS-CoV-2 genomic sequences and lineages in space and time. ViruClust is made available through a powerful and intuitive web-based user interface. Sophisticated large scale analyses can be executed with a few clicks, even by users without any computational background. To demonstrate potential applications of our method, we applied ViruClust to conduct a thorough study of the evolution of the most prevalent lineage of the Delta SARS-CoV-2 variant, and derived relevant observations. Conclusions By allowing the seamless integration of different types of functional annotations and the direct comparison of viral genomes and genetic variants in space and time, ViruClust represents a highly valuable resource for monitoring the evolution of SARS-CoV-2, facilitating the identification of variants and/or mutations of potential concern. AVAILABILITY: ViruClust is openly available at http://gmql.eu/viruclust/.

3.
BMC Bioinformatics ; 22(Suppl 15): 544, 2021 Nov 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1506889

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Improving the availability and usability of data and analytical tools is a critical precondition for further advancing modern biological and biomedical research. For instance, one of the many ramifications of the COVID-19 global pandemic has been to make even more evident the importance of having bioinformatics tools and data readily actionable by researchers through convenient access points and supported by adequate IT infrastructures. One of the most successful efforts in improving the availability and usability of bioinformatics tools and data is represented by the Galaxy workflow manager and its thriving community. In 2020 we introduced Laniakea, a software platform conceived to streamline the configuration and deployment of "on-demand" Galaxy instances over the cloud. By facilitating the set-up and configuration of Galaxy web servers, Laniakea provides researchers with a powerful and highly customisable platform for executing complex bioinformatics analyses. The system can be accessed through a dedicated and user-friendly web interface that allows the Galaxy web server's initial configuration and deployment. RESULTS: "Laniakea@ReCaS", the first instance of a Laniakea-based service, is managed by ELIXIR-IT and was officially launched in February 2020, after about one year of development and testing that involved several users. Researchers can request access to Laniakea@ReCaS through an open-ended call for use-cases. Ten project proposals have been accepted since then, totalling 18 Galaxy on-demand virtual servers that employ ~ 100 CPUs, ~ 250 GB of RAM and ~ 5 TB of storage and serve several different communities and purposes. Herein, we present eight use cases demonstrating the versatility of the platform. CONCLUSIONS: During this first year of activity, the Laniakea-based service emerged as a flexible platform that facilitated the rapid development of bioinformatics tools, the efficient delivery of training activities, and the provision of public bioinformatics services in different settings, including food safety and clinical research. Laniakea@ReCaS provides a proof of concept of how enabling access to appropriate, reliable IT resources and ready-to-use bioinformatics tools can considerably streamline researchers' work.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Cloud Computing , Computational Biology , Humans , SARS-CoV-2 , Software
4.
Commun Biol ; 4(1): 1215, 2021 10 22.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1479821

ABSTRACT

SARS-CoV-2 replication requires the synthesis of a set of structural proteins expressed through discontinuous transcription of ten subgenomic mRNAs (sgmRNAs). Here, we have fine-tuned droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) assays to accurately detect and quantify SARS-CoV-2 genomic ORF1ab and sgmRNAs for the nucleocapsid (N) and spike (S) proteins. We analyzed 166 RNA samples from anonymized SARS-CoV-2 positive subjects and we observed a recurrent and characteristic pattern of sgmRNAs expression in relation to the total viral RNA content. Additionally, expression profiles of sgmRNAs, as determined by meta-transcriptomics sequencing of a subset of 110 RNA samples, were highly correlated with those obtained by ddPCR. By providing a comprehensive and dynamic snapshot of the levels of SARS-CoV-2 sgmRNAs in infected individuals, our results may contribute a better understanding of the dynamics of transcription and expression of the genome of SARS-CoV-2 and facilitate the development of more accurate molecular diagnostic tools for the stratification of COVID-19 patients.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 Nucleic Acid Testing/methods , COVID-19/genetics , COVID-19/metabolism , Coronavirus Nucleocapsid Proteins , Polymerase Chain Reaction/methods , RNA, Viral/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2 , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus , Transcriptome , Computational Biology , Humans , Limit of Detection , Open Reading Frames , Phosphoproteins , RNA, Messenger/metabolism , Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction , Reproducibility of Results
5.
Bioinformatics ; 2020 Dec 21.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1387720

ABSTRACT

SUMMARY: While over 150 thousand genomic sequences are currently available through dedicated repositories, ad hoc methods for the functional annotation of SARS-CoV-2 genomes do not harness all currently available resources for the annotation of functionally relevant genomic sites. Here we present CorGAT, a novel tool for the functional annotation of SARS-CoV-2 genomic variants. By comparisons with other state of the art methods we demonstrate that, by providing a more comprehensive and rich annotation, our method can facilitate the identification of evolutionary patterns in the genome of SARS-CoV-2. AVAILABILITY: Galaxy: http://corgat.cloud.ba.infn.it/galaxy; software: https://github.com/matteo14c/CorGAT/tree/Revision_V1; docker: https://hub.docker.com/r/laniakeacloud/galaxy_corgat. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

6.
Brief Bioinform ; 22(2): 616-630, 2021 03 22.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1343634

ABSTRACT

Various next generation sequencing (NGS) based strategies have been successfully used in the recent past for tracing origins and understanding the evolution of infectious agents, investigating the spread and transmission chains of outbreaks, as well as facilitating the development of effective and rapid molecular diagnostic tests and contributing to the hunt for treatments and vaccines. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic poses one of the greatest global threats in modern history and has already caused severe social and economic costs. The development of efficient and rapid sequencing methods to reconstruct the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2, the etiological agent of COVID-19, has been fundamental for the design of diagnostic molecular tests and to devise effective measures and strategies to mitigate the diffusion of the pandemic. Diverse approaches and sequencing methods can, as testified by the number of available sequences, be applied to SARS-CoV-2 genomes. However, each technology and sequencing approach has its own advantages and limitations. In the current review, we will provide a brief, but hopefully comprehensive, account of currently available platforms and methodological approaches for the sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 genomes. We also present an outline of current repositories and databases that provide access to SARS-CoV-2 genomic data and associated metadata. Finally, we offer general advice and guidelines for the appropriate sharing and deposition of SARS-CoV-2 data and metadata, and suggest that more efficient and standardized integration of current and future SARS-CoV-2-related data would greatly facilitate the struggle against this new pathogen. We hope that our 'vademecum' for the production and handling of SARS-CoV-2-related sequencing data, will contribute to this objective.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/virology , Genome, Viral , High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing/methods , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , COVID-19/epidemiology , Humans , Pandemics
7.
Mol Biol Evol ; 38(6): 2547-2565, 2021 05 19.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1238217

ABSTRACT

Effective systems for the analysis of molecular data are fundamental for monitoring the spread of infectious diseases and studying pathogen evolution. The rapid identification of emerging viral strains, and/or genetic variants potentially associated with novel phenotypic features is one of the most important objectives of genomic surveillance of human pathogens and represents one of the first lines of defense for the control of their spread. During the COVID 19 pandemic, several taxonomic frameworks have been proposed for the classification of SARS-Cov-2 isolates. These systems, which are typically based on phylogenetic approaches, represent essential tools for epidemiological studies as well as contributing to the study of the origin of the outbreak. Here, we propose an alternative, reproducible, and transparent phenetic method to study changes in SARS-CoV-2 genomic diversity over time. We suggest that our approach can complement other systems and facilitate the identification of biologically relevant variants in the viral genome. To demonstrate the validity of our approach, we present comparative genomic analyses of more than 175,000 genomes. Our method delineates 22 distinct SARS-CoV-2 haplogroups, which, based on the distribution of high-frequency genetic variants, fall into four major macrohaplogroups. We highlight biased spatiotemporal distributions of SARS-CoV-2 genetic profiles and show that seven of the 22 haplogroups (and of all of the four haplogroup clusters) showed a broad geographic distribution within China by the time the outbreak was widely recognized-suggesting early emergence and widespread cryptic circulation of the virus well before its isolation in January 2020. General patterns of genomic variability are remarkably similar within all major SARS-CoV-2 haplogroups, with UTRs consistently exhibiting the greatest variability, with s2m, a conserved secondary structure element of unknown function in the 3'-UTR of the viral genome showing evidence of a functional shift. Although several polymorphic sites that are specific to one or more haplogroups were predicted to be under positive or negative selection, overall our analyses suggest that the emergence of novel types is unlikely to be driven by convergent evolution and independent fixation of advantageous substitutions, or by selection of recombined strains. In the absence of extensive clinical metadata for most available genome sequences, and in the context of extensive geographic and temporal biases in the sampling, many questions regarding the evolution and clinical characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 isolates remain open. However, our data indicate that the approach outlined here can be usefully employed in the identification of candidate SARS-CoV-2 genetic variants of clinical and epidemiological importance.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/genetics , Evolution, Molecular , Genome, Viral , Genomics , Phylogeny , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Humans
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